The Vienna Philharmonic felt “at home” here. The great pianist Hélène Grimaud called it an “almost magical place for music” and Sir Simon Rattle advised the people of Munich to ”look to Wuppertal”.
What has long been known to the international world of music has now been confirmed by science thanks to a Finnish research team: the Große Saal of the Historische Stadthalle Wuppertal is one of the concert halls with the best acoustics in Europe.
Shortly after the interview with Rattle in November 2012 in the Süddeutsche Zeitung that caused such a stir, Professor Tapio Lokki of Finland’s Aalto University announced that his team would like to visit Wuppertal to measure the sound quality of the Große Saal scientifically. The award-winning researcher has developed a new method for the precise comparison of the acoustics of different concert halls. This method not only takes into account purely physical measurements, but is also based on sensory assessments of the spatial acoustics. Lokki’s conclusion: “Historische Stadthalle Wuppertal is not very well known among acousticians worldwide. However, the hall has very nice acoustics and it should be much better known. We really liked the Stadthalle and it definitely supports the full dynamics that an orchestra can play. It is one of the best concert halls in Europe.“
The Finnish acousticians have developed a symphony orchestra simulator, the so-called “loudspeaker orchestra”, and have used it to capture the spatial acoustics of 19 European concert halls. In every venue it was set up in an identical way, so that the concert hall was the single changeable factor that could affect the sound of the recording. This is what made a precise comparison of acoustic properties possible later on in the laboratory. When listening to the music from the different concert halls back in the laboratory with the spatial sound reproduction, all subjective hearing tests were also carried out with sensory test methods that reveal the different perception factors between the concert halls.
Using this combination of objective and subjective sensory data, Professor Lokki’s team was able to explain the preference for certain concert halls. The traditional “shoebox” architecture is clearly head and shoulders above the rest. The best concert halls in Europe for acoustics – the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the Wiener Musikverein, the Historische Stadthalle Wuppertal, the Konzerthaus Berlin – all have a similar construction.
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