Saturday, 29 September 2012

Where Musical Dreams Come True

The undulating sculptural look of the Walt Disney Concert Hall
A relatively new landmark in Los Angeles is the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by starchitect Frank Gehry.

A workman washing part of the building
Completed in 2003, the silver building's birth began in 1987 when Walt Disney's widow Lillian donated $50 million to build a performance hall for the city.

Despite other donations, the project went over budget and numerous fundraising efforts had to be made.

Nevertheless, the result is a fantastic venue Los Angeles should be proud of.

Gehry's signature style of undulating shapes create the effect of sheets of music shuffled together -- at least that's my impression of the building looking at it from the main entrance. It contrasts with the 1960s minimalist architecture in the neighbourhood with its voluptuousness and shininess.

On the day we went, workers were washing parts of the building's exterior, and it must be quite a challenge cleaning it -- it must be like going up and down a mountain making the task less than monotonous.

The hall shines in the midday sun
Inside we were given orange stickers to wear and offered the option of a free audio tour or just wander around ourselves which is what we did.

The interior has lots of wood panelling that makes it warm and inviting despite the cavernous space. It's understandable we were not allowed into the main concert hall, but there were video projections showing what it looked like.

Musicians report the hall is technically brilliant in terms of accoustics, allowing every sound to be heard.

We particularly liked the garden outside on the second floor that also has a public entrance. While it's mostly concrete, the highlight is a fountain made in the shape of a massive rose called "A Rose for Lilly: Frank Gehry's tribute to Lillian Disney; A gift of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren."

The interior is cavernous and warm with lots of wood
It's a mosaic made entirely of Dutch blue and white tiles. While the source of the fountain is not seen, there's running water in the bottom petals inviting cool respite from the hot weather.

The fundraising efforts did not go unnoticed as in many of these public projects. Donors were named in every area of the hall, including stair cases. Outside in the garden area is a giant spiral naming other patrons.

And breathing more vibrancy into the concert hall is the music director, Gustavo Dudamel, the young Venezuelan conductor and violinist. He was appointed the position in 2009 and since then has has created a lot of excitement about classical music to the younger generation.

His youth is needed more than ever with mostly white heads in the audience.

Lillian's rose designed by Frank Gehry using Dutch tiles
Dudamel and the combination of a cool concert hall surely results in a dynamic classical music scene in the City of Angels. 

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