Saturday, 3 September 2011

Harpa Hall, Iceland - decentralizing music venues

Quick post, as I have three fairly major posts in the pipeline. Watch this space !

New photos in of Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavík, Iceland, which offically opens on 8th September. Please see HERE. The hall was planned when Iceland's economy seemed to be blooming.  Lots of countries do glamour projects like that - think Mandelsohn's vanity Dome which has fortunately been rescued, though it was a near thing. And think of the Olympics in London, on top of a war and the worst economic collapse the modern world has ever seen. So don't knock Iceland.  Consider its situation on the furthest edge of Europe. The Harpa Concert Hall is an act of faith in the counrty's ability to revive. Harpa Hall is more than "just" a concert hall, for it provides the kind of civic facilities capital cities need. Many cities don't have the luxury of numerous specialist venues like we're blessed with in mainland Europe. In a country as northerly as Iceland, it's probably good for the community to have an all-weather focus place. Photo by Bára Kristinsdóttir

Harpa Hall might also put Iceland on the international music map and do for the country what the Canary Islands Music Festival does for the islands. And Iceland does have music - Vladimir Ashkenazy is a local resident and of course Jon Leifs the composer, who should be heard more often. Ilan Volkov is the Chief Conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra (see HERE ) so maybe he'll develop a specialist profile. Ultimately, it's up to Icelanders, not outsiders,  to decide what they want to do with the hall. So good luck to them ! Please also see my piece on Guangzhou's new Opera House, designed by Zaha Hadid.  The future of classical music depends on places outside established centres of western music. Local customs, tastes and priorities must be respected. Places like Guangzhou (Canton) already have thriving regional cultures, so imposing from outside is a form of neo-colonialism. Guangzhou's opera house will be dwarfed by the even newer West Kowloon development in Hong Kong, of which I'll write more soon. Since the whole region between Guangzhou and Hong Kong is gradually becoming one huge conurbation of 50 million people, these venues serve a massive audience. In straitened times, thank goodness there are cities that invest in culture.

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