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Happy birthday, 'Elphi'!

January 11, 2018

The Elbphilharmonie concert house opened on January 11, 2017. Since then tourists and locals have been enjoying the sounds and views of Hamburg's latest landmark.

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

For the past year, you are likely to hear one all-important question in Hamburg: "So have you been inside yet?" To which the answer can either be: "Yes, it was magnificent." Others reply: "No, I haven't managed to get tickets yet." And yet, even without concert tickets, you can visit the Plaza, the name given to the 37-meter-high (121-foot-high) viewing platform of the Elbphilharmonie, providing an impressive look at the building's architecture and great panoramic views of the harbor.

BdT mit Deutschlanbezug - Elbphilharmonie
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Gateau

Hall of Wonders

By December 2017, some 4.5 million visitors had flocked to the Plaza. That's more on average than those visiting Castle Neuschwanstein in Bavaria or the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Since its completion, the "Elphi," as locals affectionately call the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, has transformed in people's minds from a hugely expensive delay-ridden project to a celebrated landmark. 

Its location in the middle of the harbor is unique. The passing ships appear close enough to touch it. At sunset, when the "blue hour" begins, spectacular light reflections can be seen, a moment often snapped and preserved by visitors on their smartphones.

Thanks to the concert hall, Hamburg has been declared by various travel guide publications as one of the top-ranking places to be.


A crystal wave as the jewel of the city

The spectacular glass construction by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron rises up from the brick base of an old warehouse on the westernmost tip of the Hafencity harbor development.

At its highest point, the Elbphilharmonie, named after the Elbe River, measures 110 meters. The huge complex, with its distinctive wave-like roof, houses two concert halls, a hotel and a restaurant, as well as residential apartments for permanent guests. The Plaza is accessed either by lift or via an 82-meter-long curving escalator.  

For the past year, the interior of this building has served as a platform for the "who's who" of the classical music world, covering all from Beethoven to jazz with performances by the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra or Anne-Sophie Mutter.

According to organizers, the roughly 600 performances have virtually all been sold out, meaning some 850,000 people were able to attend the concerts.

Deutschland Hamburg - Elbphilharmonie: Sitzränge im Großen Saal
The Grand Hall at Hamburg's ElbphilharmonieImage: DW/R. Fulker

Much sought-after tickets

There is no indication that the demand for concert tickets might be declining even one year after the Elbphilharmonie's opening. The rule tends to be that the demand far exceeds the number of tickets available. In those cases, the luck of a draw decides who of those interested in tickets will be the recipients.

The second season at the concert hall promises an impressive program, including performances by the London Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The artistic director of the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Christoph Lieben-Seutter, is very pleased when he looks back over the first year of the concert hall. "It could not have gone any better," he said. "For all involved it was a unique experience," the Viennese-born director recently stated in a newspaper interview.  

"What makes it unique as a venue is that within no time at all it gained global admiration and quickly started breaking all records. Visitors and musicians alike are so fascinated by it that everyone wants to come back," he added. "That's something that won't be happening again any time soon."

fm/ks (mit dpa, KNA)