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Tonhalle Zurich: The renovated acoustics

Culture & Event

Feierliches Finale mit Schlussakkord 

After a four-year interim period in the temporary Maag venue, the famous Tonhalle Orchestra is returning to its lakeside home. On September 15, 2021, the Grosse Tonhalle was ceremoniously opened under the direction of its chief conductor Paavo Järvi with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 in D minor.

The historic concert hall, which dates back to 1895, has undergone extensive renovation since 2017. Müller-BBM Building Solutions was responsible for the entire room acoustics in this challenging project.

Tonhalle Orchester Zürich | Foto: Georg Aerni | Grosse Tonhalle, Totale, 2021

According to the brief, the listening experience after the renovation was to be at least on a par with the previous level, namely unique. Extensive as-built measurements, both in the unoccupied hall and with an audience, a large number of metrological tests on the podium and special sound recordings enabled Müller-BBM Building Solutions to gain a comprehensive overall impression of the special acoustics of this room, which is so highly regarded by musicians and audiences alike.

Müller-BBM BSO | Blick Richtung Podium während der Bauphase

Historic room surfaces

Richly designed decorative elements, structures and decorative parts ensure a good sound mix in the hall. Dusty layers of paint were removed from the walls, columns and balustrades to enhance the acoustic effect of the hall surfaces. Even the composition of the new colors was discussed and adapted with the restorers from an acoustic point of view.

Tonhalle Orchester Zürich | Foto: Frederic Meyer | Grosse Tonhalle, Decke, 2021 

New orchestra podium and new organ

The Zurich Hall has an almost double-symmetrical floor plan and this geometry was retained after the renovation. The new organ was cleverly adapted to the overall space. With a great deal of imagination, the organ builders developed an instrument with a slightly more compact body than before. This made it possible to gain additional space on the podium. The orchestra podium was completely redesigned as a classic wooden construction. The result was a new, flexible podium with increased width and depth, which corresponds to modern performance practice. It is ideal for both large and small orchestral ensembles with and without choir. At soloist concerts, the audience can also take a seat on the podium.

Resonating parquet floor

The Tonhalle hall has a new floor, which has now been reconnected directly to the support level along the longitudinal axis of the hall. The hall floor was laid right under the front part of the new podium so that the podium is directly connected to the hall floor and the vibrational energy is transferred directly to the hall floor when music is played. This enhances the musical quality of the hall, as in addition to the listening experience, concertgoers can also feel the music at forte passages.

Müller-BBM BSO | Saalfußboden während der Bauphase

New covers for the seating

The existing seating in the Great Hall was not replaced in order to save costs. However, the existing chairs from 2005 were given new covers, which somewhat equalizes the reverberation times between rehearsal and concert situations in the hall.

Acoustic conclusion

The final measurements and first orchestra rehearsals show that the acoustic parameters in the Great Hall were not only achieved, but even exceeded in some areas.

Tonhalle Orchester Zürich | Foto: Keystone | Tonhalle von oben, 2021 

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