Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Salle Pleyel Concert Hall

The Pleyel piano manufacturer had long had an intimate concert hall in Paris at rue Rochechouart (see etching above), where 19th century notables such as Chopin played. However, the piano company established a greater prominence by building a much larger new concert hall entirely devoted to concert music. This 3,000 seat auditorium, not far from the place de l’Étoile on Rue du faubourg Saint-Honoré, was constructed in Art Deco style (contemporary for the period). Salle Pleyel opened in 1927 with a monumental orchestral concert of music by Wagner, de Falla, Stravinsky, Franck, Dukas, Debussy and Ravel.
A fire ravaged the hall less than nine months after its opening. Unfortunately, the acoustics suffered from the rather slap-dash renovations that were undertaken (the economic crisis of 1929 resulted in extremely modest funds available for repairs). The branch of the maison Pleyel that managed the building never recovered from the financial shock, and in 1935 the hall, reduced to 2,400 seats, became the property of the Crédit Lyonnais bank that originally granted the loan.
Salle Pleyel became one of the most celebrated concert halls in Paris. It was here that Stravinsky directed Agon (1957) and Threni (1958), and where Otto Klemperer gave his celebrated interpretations of Mahler’s 9th Symphony and Beethoven’s Eroica. The Orchestre de Paris took up residence and gained an international audience under Daniel Barenboïm. Over the decades many of Europe’s finest orchestras graced its stage, as well as legends from the world of jazz, such as Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, and world musicians, including Ravi Shankar. In fact, the Salle Pleyel became known as the “Carnegie Hall” of Paris.
In 1998, following financial difficulties by Crédit Lyonnais, the Salle Pleyel was put up for sale. Its new proprietor, M. Hubert Martigny, awarded the artistic direction of the hall to Carla-Maria Tarditi, until it closed in 2002 for renovation work costing €30 million.

The work completed in 2006 restored the simplicity and purity that characterized the original Art Deco aesthetic. The renovations of the façade, hall and foyer reconfigured the spaces to allot more room to the public and performers. Great effort was made to improve the hall’s acoustics, as well. There was a further reduction in the number of seats, presently 1,913 compared to 3,000 in 1927, and a choir of 160 voices can be accommodated at the back of the stage.

The inaugural concert in the refurbished Salle Pleyel took place on September 13, 2006, with a performance of the appropriately-named “Resurrection Symphony” of Gustav Mahler.
A restaurant, Café Salle Pleyel, is on the premises (lunch M-F, dinner on concert evenings).
Salle Pleyel
252 rue du faubourg Saint-Honoré
Métro: Ternes