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Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie concert hall opens on January 11

Rick Fulker
January 9, 2017

After what seemed like interminable delays, budget overruns and lawsuits, Hamburg's highly anticipated Elbphilharmonie concert hall officially opens on Wednesday.

Deutschland Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg
Image: picture-alliance/R. Goldmann

The plaza between the historic brick base below and the spectacular new glass construction above was opened to the public in early November, the luxury hotel between the ninth and nineteenth stories later in the month. In November, the public could also experience "The Ship," a walk-in sound installation by musician and producer Brian Eno.

Then, just on the dot of the New Year, dancer Sasha Waltz inaugurated the foyers of the arts complex with a choreographic installation. Since January 1, a countdown of the days and hours remaining until January 11's grand opening has been displayed on the western façade of the breathtaking new facility on Hamburg's spacious Elbe River harbor.

After the seven-year delay in its completion, the organizers clearly wanted to stretch that moment of anticipation just a bit further. But the countdown is running. Presiding at the official inauguration of the Elbphilharmonie's main concert hall on Wednesday is Germany's President Joachim Gauck.

Old and new music - and a surprise

The audience of invited guests, press representatives and 1,000 concert goers who acquired their tickets by random selection will hear a gala including works by Michael Praetorius, Ludwig van Beethoven, Richard Wagner, Rolf Liebermann and Wolfgang Rihm - but evidently also a surprise, as some details remain unannounced. 

The recently renamed NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra will perform under the direction of its principal conductor Thomas Hengelbrock.

Virtual and live concerts

For those not among the lucky 1,000 on Wednesday's guest list or who didn't garner a ticket to Thursday's repeat performance, a visual experience is available both evenings by means of a 360-degree live stream by Google. Users can decide what they want to view: stage, audience, organ or the whole interior space. The live stream is available on January 11 at 6:30 p.m. CET. 

For an even more intense remote experience, Google Cardboard virtual reality goggles provide a virtual seat in the grand hall. Google and the Elbphilharmonie have made 38,000 units available. 

But clearly, a new concert hall is all about the sound, and the opening of the Elbphilharmonie's main hall will be the moment of truth for acoustical engineer Yasuhisa Toyota, who was responsible for the hall acoustic.

Click on the gallery above for more on the Elbphilharmonie, its labored history, its promise, and its potential for the city and the arts world.