Symphony Hall, Boston

Symphony Hall, Boston

Infobox_nrhp | name =Symphony Hall
nrhp_type = nhl

caption = Symphony Hall from the south.
location= 301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts
lat_degrees = 42 | lat_minutes = 20 | lat_seconds = 33.34 | lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 71 | long_minutes = 5 | long_seconds = 8.9 | long_direction = W
area =
built =1900
architecture= Renaissance
designated=January 20, 1999
added = January 20, 1999
governing_body = Private
refnum=99000633 cite web|url=|title=National Register Information System|date=2007-01-23|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service]

Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts is widely considered to be one of the two or three finest concert halls in the world, alongside Amsterdam's Concertgebouw and Vienna's Großer Musikvereinssaal. All three concert halls are renowned for their exceptional acoustics. [ [ April 11, 1888: Concertgebouw, Home of Nearly Perfect Acoustics, Opens ] ] As "New York Times" associate editor R.W. Apple, Jr. wrote of Symphony Hall, it “need not take a back seat, aesthetically or acoustically, even to the Musikverein in Vienna.” [R.W. Apple, Jr., "Apple's America" (North Point Press, 2005), ISBN 0-86547-685-3.] It is the home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops and is a block away from the New England Conservatory.

History and architecture

Symphony Hall was inaugurated on October 15, 1900, after the Orchestra's original home (the Old Boston Music Hall) was threatened by road-building and subway construction. Architects McKim, Mead and White engaged Wallace Clement Sabine, a young assistant professor of physics at Harvard University, as their acoustical consultant, and Symphony Hall became one of the first auditoria designed in accordance with scientifically derived acoustical principles.

The Hall was modeled on the second Gewandhaus concert hall in Leipzig, which was destroyed in World War II. The Hall is relatively long, narrow, and high, in a rectangular "shoebox" shape like Amsterdam's Concertgebouw and Vienna's Musikverein. It is 61 feet high, 75 feet wide, and 125 long from the lower back wall to the front of the stage. Stage walls slope inward to help focus the sound. With the exception of its wooden floors, the Hall is built of brick, steel, and plaster, with modest decoration. Side balconies are very shallow to avoid trapping or muffling sound, and the coffered ceiling and statue-filled niches along three sides help provide excellent acoustics to essentially every seat. Conductor Herbert von Karajan, in comparing it to the Musikverein, stated that "for much music, it is even better... because of the slightly lower reverberation time."

In 2006, due to wear and tear, the concert stage floor was replaced at a cost of $250,000. The process used original methods and materials, including hard maple, a compressed wool underlayment and hardened steel cut nails, hammered home by hand. The vertical grain fir subfloor from 1899 was in excellent shape and was left in place. The nails used in the new floor are made using the same equipment that produced the originals.Fact|date=July 2007 Even the back chanelling on the original maple top boards was replicated to help preserve the acoustics of the Hall. The old floorboards were converted into handcrafted pens that are available to the public on a necessarily limited basis.

Beethoven's name is inscribed over the stage. He was the only musician's name put in Symphony Hall, as he was the only composer that the original directors could fully agree upon. The hall's leather seats are still original from 1900. The hall seats 2,625 people during Symphony season, 2,371 during the Pops season, and up to 800 for dinner.


The 16 Greek and Roman statue replicas lining its walls were installed as an echo of the frequently quoted words, "Boston, the Athens of America," written by Bostonian William Tudor in the early 19th century. Ten are of mythical subjects, and six of historical figures; all are plaster reproductions cast by P. P. Caproni and Brother.

The statues are as follows, as one faces the stage. At the right, starting near the stage: Faun with Infant Bacchus (Naples); Apollo Citharoedus (Rome); Girl of Herculaneum (Dresden); Dancing Faun (Rome); Demosthenes (Rome); Seated Anacreon (Copenhagen); Euripedes (Rome); Diana of Versailles (Paris). At the left, again starting near the stage: Resting Satyr of Praxiteles (Rome); Amazon (Berlin); Hermes Logios (Paris); Lemnian Athena (Dresden, with head in Bologna); Sophocles (Rome); Standing Anacreon (Copenhagen); Aeschines (Naples); Apollo Belvedere (Rome).


The Symphony Hall organ, a 4,800-pipe Aeolian-Skinner (Opus 1134) designed by G. Donald Harrison, installed in 1949, and autographed by Albert Schweitzer, is considered one of the finest concert hall organs in the world. It replaced the hall's first organ, built in 1900 by George S. Hutchings of Boston, which was electrically keyed, with 62 ranks of nearly 4,000 pipes set in a chamber 12 feet deep and 40 feet high. The Hutchings organ had fallen out of fashion by the 1940s when lighter, clearer tones became preferred. E. Power Biggs, often a featured organist for the orchestra, lobbied hard for a thinner bass sound and accentuated treble.

The 1949 Aeolian-Skinner reused and modified more than 60% of the existing Hutchings pipes and added 600 new pipes in a Positiv division. The original diapason pipes, 32 feet in length, were reportedly sawed into manageable pieces for disposal in 1948.

In 2003 the organ was thoroughly overhauled by Foley-Baker Inc., reusing its chassis and many pipes, but enclosing the Bombarde and adding to it the long-desired Principal (flute) pipes, adding a new Solo division, and reworking its chamber for better sound projection.

ee also

*List of major concert halls

External links

* [ Symphony Hall]


* Boston Symphony Orchestra, "Symphony Hall: The First 100 Years", January 2000. ISBN 0-9671148-2-9.
* Boston Symphony Orchestra, "Program Notes", October 1, 2005; April 8, 2006.

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