Het Concertgebouw Fonds
A Historic Concert Hall in the centre of Amsterdam. Its superb acoustics place it among the finest concert halls in the world.
The Concertgebouw: A hall of and for music lovers
Back in 1881, leading members of the community took the initiative to build a concert hall, and it was thanks to members of the public that The Concertgebouw was inaugurated in 1888. To this very day, it is still the general public and private funds which keep the hall open. In fact, only five per cent of The Concertgebouw’s annual income is provided by the state. Indeed, The Concertgebouw intends to remain a private institution in the future. Obviously, support from the private sector is essential to ensuring that the hall can continue to welcome musicians and audience members alike, both today and in the future.
To safeguard The Concertgebouw’s existence, the Concertgebouw Fund Foundation was established in 2000. The fund contributes to the renovation and restoration of the hall and supports a variety of education projects which is one of its main goals. Perhaps you yourself have toyed with the idea of supporting the Concertgebouw and thus helping to secure its future. The Concertgebouw Fund offers a variety of options to help make that idea a reality. In exchange, you’ll be able to enjoy many special privileges as a patron of the Concertgebouw Fund.
History: The beginning of The Concertgebouw
The date is 15 September 1881. Six illustrious Amsterdam citizens come together to breathe life into the ‘Provisional Committee to build a concert hall’. The Park Hall theatre in the Plantage area was about to be demolished, the Felix Meritis building was too small, and Amsterdam’s Crystal Palace was uncomfortable and notorious for its poor acoustics. A few months earlier, the weekly paper De Amsterdammer denounced the sad state of the capital city’s music scene. 'While the leaders of all self-respecting cities abroad have made sure their cities are graced with good concert halls, our government has declared that these ill-fated ‘arts’ are not its responsibility,’ the paper reported.
To determine a suitable location, the committee turns to Pierre Cuypers, the architect of the Rijksmuseum which was being built at that time. He helps negotiate the purchase of a plot of land near the new museum, just outside the city limits, in the middle of the Nieuwer-Amstel fields. On 7 March 1882, plans were completed for a public limited company with a capital sum of 400,000 guilders, for which shares could be purchased for 1000 guilders. On 8 July 1882, the company N.V. Het Concertgebouw was officially founded, even though only 250,000 guilders in shares had been sold.
Dolf van Gendt
There was no requirement for a particular building style, as long as the end result would fit on an area of 130 x 55 metres, be constructed for a budget of 300,000 guilders, and provide space for around 2000 concertgoers. After some bickering, a design was chosen – albeit a scaled-down version – from Amsterdam’s most frequently patronised architect, Adolf Leonard (Dolf) van Gendt, the creator of many famous buildings, including the Hollandsche Manege, Frascati, De IJsbreker and the Gallery of the Crystal Palace.
The Concertgebouw was completed in late 1886. However, due to a lack of confidence on the part of the funders as well as the necessary difficulties with the municipality of Nieuwer-Amstel (for example, with respect to filling in a small canal, paving the access roads and installing street lights), the grand opening of the long-awaited building was only celebrated on Wednesday 11 April 1888.
Famous acoustics: The secret of the Main Hall
So what is the secret of the world-famous acoustics of the Main Hall of The Royal Concertgebouw? Is it just a coincidence that Dolf van Gendt, considered by his family to be completely devoid of musical talent, was able to create a perfectly resonant hall? In the time that The Concertgebouw was taking shape, the science of acoustics was still considered a mysterious combination of many different and undefinable factors. Professional recording equipment was only developed in the 20th century; at the time, architects only had successful examples to look to.
As a result, the Recital Hall is nearly identical to the renowned oval hall in the Felix Meritis building, while the Main Hall – in terms of design and materials used – was based on the large concert hall of the Neue Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Germany. In later restorations, the original design and finishing details of the halls were left intact as much as possible to preserve the sensitive acoustics. Because even the most advanced equipment is unable to unmask the secret of the Main Hall’s unparalleled acoustics.