As a touring and performing musician, you should be aware of what certain venues have to offer. More specifically, something you should consider are the acoustics of the place where you’ll be performing. Likewise, as a fan of listening to music performances, you want to make sure you hear any given piece you’re attending a performance of exactly as it was meant to be heard. In this blog post, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 venues in the world with the best acoustics so you can choose the ideal spot for you to sound your best when you perform for others, or alternatively experience music at its optimal quality!
Home to the Vienna Philharmonic, Musikverein is located in the Inner Stadt borough of Vienna, Austria. The theater’s Golden Hall (also known as the “Great Hall”) seats up to 1,744 people and is considered one of the most remarkable concert spaces in the world, due to its phenomenal acoustics. Impressively, the hall wasn’t even built applying modern acoustics science, so the hall’s ability to produce such a vibrant sound quality is all thanks to the intuition of the building’s architect, Theophil Hansen. Along with the Golden Hall, Musikverein includes four other halls and rehearsal spaces: Brahmssaal (Brahms Hall), Gläserner Saal/Magna Auditorium (Glass Hall), Metallener Saal (Metal Hall), and Steinerner Saal/Host Haschek Auditorium (Stone Hall).
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops, Symphony Hall was built in 1900 as one of the first concert halls to be designed using scientifically derived acoustical principles. It is widely considered among the top three concert halls in the world, featuring a long shoebox shape and shallow balconies, allowing sound coming from the stage to not be trapped or muffled, providing a fantastic acoustic quality to nearly every seat and spot in the hall. The hall is modestly decorated and includes an inscription of Beethoven’s name above the main stage (fun fact: Beethoven is the only composer whose name is featured in the hall, as his is the only name the original directors of the hall could agree to feature).
This renowned concert hall in Amsterdam celebrated its 125th birthday on April 11, 2013, on which day Queen Beatrix appointed the hall with the Royal Title “Koninklijk” (meaning “kingly” in Dutch). The hall’s fantastic acoustic properties have contributed to the venue’s standing as one of the top three performance halls in the world. The Great Hall seats almost two thousand people and has a reverberation time of 2.8 seconds when unoccupied, and 2.2 seconds when packed with an audience, making it the ideal place to hear late Romantic repertoire such as works by Mahler. The hall’s designers did not work with the science of acoustics when creating the design for the space, and thus worked only off of previously-discovered methods and materials that had been believed to be useful in producing excellent sound quality in buildings. These designers impressively worked via trial and error and fine-tuned the hall’s design until they achieved an optimal acoustic space. Although the space is a popular venue in which to hear classical music, the hall also hosts jazz and world music performances. Concertgebouw offers approximately 900 concerts per year and is the second most visited concert hall in the world behind Rome’s Parco della musica.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Los Angeles, California, USA
Located in Los Angeles, California, Walt Disney Concert Hall is the fourth hall of the Los Angeles Music Center and consists of an exterior designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, and an interior with acoustics designed by Yasuhisa Toyota. The hall opened in 2003 to rave reviews by concert-goers. The hall’s opening is, in fact, said to be one of the most successful grand openings of a concert hall in American history! LA Times music critic Mark Swed wrote in his opening night review that “the hall miraculously came to life” and that “a new sonic dimension has been added [after the previous incarnation of the hall]…every square inch of air in Disney vibrated merrily.” The hall seats over 2,200 people and is home to the LA Philharmonic and the LA Masters Chorale.
Berlin Konzerthaus is a concert hall located in Gendarmenmarket Square in the Mitte district of Berlin. The building was originally built as a theater from 1818-1821, but was converted into a concert hall after World War II. The building was severely damaged in the Allied Bombings and the Battle of Berlin, and was rebuilt in 1977. Designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the hall is considered one of the top 5 concert venues in the world, thanks to its fantastic acoustics, particularly for orchestral and operatic performances.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Teatro Colón (Columbus Theatre) is the main opera house in Buenos Aires, Argentina and is among the top 5 venues in the world with the best acoustics – even Pavarotti thought so! The theater opened in May of 1908 with Verdi’s Aida. Teatro Colón has a horseshoe-shaped auditorium with close to 2,500 seats and standing room for 1,000 people.
Palais des Beaux-Arts
Affectionately referred to as “Bozar”, this cultural venue is located in Brussels, Belgium, and was completed in 1928. The venue consists of exhibition and conference rooms, a movie theater, and a concert hall which is home to the National Orchestra of Belgium. Each year, the venue hosts the finals of the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition. The largest hall in this Center for Fine Arts is its Henry Le Boeuf Hall, which seats 2,200 people. A 1945 questionnaire among European conductors revealed that many considered it a favorite of theirs, alongside top venues such as Vienna’s Musikverein and Boston’s Symphony Hall.
Dom Zu Passau
This Baroque cathedral, completed in 1693, sits in Passau, Germany, close to the country’s border with Austria. The cathedral is made mostly of stone and is an incredible 2 to 5 times larger than most concert halls. This cathedral boasts the largest organ outside of the United States, consisting of 17,774 pipes and 233 registers, and has a reverberation time of a whopping 4.6 seconds (meaning if you were to sing a particular note, the sound would continue to resonate in the hall for 4.6 seconds after being sung)!
Mariinsky Concert Hall
St. Petersburg, Russia
Mariinsky Theatre is a venue located in St. Petersburg, Russia, that hosts numerous opera and ballet performances. The concert hall opened in 1860 and was the preeminent music theater of 19th century Russia, premiering many masterpieces of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and more! Many visitors to the hall have claimed to have experienced the concert of a lifetime in this hall due to its impeccable acoustics.
Le Thoronet Abbey
This former Cistercian abbey was built in the late 12th to early 13th century in Provence and these days exists as a museum. The abbey is one of three Cistercian abbeys in Provence that are all together known as “The Three Sisters of Provence”. The abbey’s stone walls create a long echo which used to force the establishment’s monks to sing slowly and perfectly together when chanting. The acoustic quality in the abbey is said to have an almost spiritual effect on those lucky enough to experience it.
Bonus: Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni
The Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni was discovered in Malta in 1902 when some workers were digging in the area and accidentally broke through the structure’s ceiling. The underground structure dates back to 3000-2500 BC and is currently the only known prehistoric underground temple in the world. The coolest part – the three-leveled structure has a phenomenal and strange acoustic property such that the male voice could reverberate throughout the entire temple if the person creating the noise was standing in a particular spot. Weirdly, this effect only works if the voice falls in the 95-120 Hz range, typically the range of male but not female voices.
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