A DISTINGUISHED INSTITUTION
When it comes to music, the Laeiszhalle was the first port of call in Hamburg for more than 100 years. The concert hall (or »music hall«, as it was called until 2004) was opened in 1908 and has a proud history of guest performances by composers such as Richard Strauss, Sergei Prokofiev, Igor Stravinsky and Paul Hindemith, all of whom conducted their own works here. Audiences also enjoyed epoch-making performances by emerging global stars such as a 12-year-old Yehudi Menuhin and a young Vladimir Horowitz, and later by legends such as Maria Callas.
Although the Elbphilharmonie opened in 2017, the Laeiszhalle Grand Hall remains one of Europe’s best philharmonic concert halls. The Symphoniker Hamburg regularly give concerts here as the resident orchestra, and a number of other regional orchestras, choirs and promoters use the hall. World-class pianists such as Grigory Sokolov and Martha Argerich, and singers such as Cecilia Bartoli and Jonas Kaufmann have said they love the hall and its excellent acoustics.
Gradual modernisation work has been ongoing in the hall since 2018 in order to make the Laeiszhalle ready for the future.
The Elbphilharmonie and the Laeiszhalle operate under one general director.
HARD TO SPELL, EASY TO SAY: LAISS
The concert hall is named after the Hamburg shipowner Carl Heinrich Laeisz (1828–1901). In his will, he decreed that his company F. Laeisz would donate 1.2 million marks to build »a magnificent venue for the performance and enjoyment of fine, serious music«.
His widow Sophie Christine Laeisz raised the figure to 2 million marks and, as the developer, conducted the negotiations with the city authorities. The Laeiszhalle was designed in a neo-Baroque style by the architects Martin Haller and Emil Meerwein, who had previously made a name for themselves with the construction of Hamburg City Hall.
CAREER START FOR A RADIO DJ
The Laeiszhalle miraculously survived the Second World War unscathed. The British occupying forces temporarily used the building as the Broadcasting House for their military radio station British Forces Network. Chris Howland – who became one of the early NDR presenter legends because of his charm and wonderful English accent when speaking German – started his career as a radio DJ here. Besides all things classical, the music hall also became home to beat, rock, pop and jazz over the following decades.
Imker, die auf dem Dach der Laeiszhalle herumklettern und ein Sänger, der mit einer vollgetankten Harley Davidson auf die Bühne brettert: das altehrwürdige Konzerthaus hat noch viele weitere kuriose Geschichten zu bieten.
Louise Alder and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Robin Ticciati delight with a Mozart concert
Pianist Fred Hersch and his trio perform an »Elbphilharmonie Session«
The Szymanowski Quartet performs Mieczysław Weinberg’s Piano Quintet Op. 18
Halls and Spaces in the Laeiszhalle
The Grand Hall
The Laeiszhalle Grand Hall, with its unique glass ceiling and elegant neo-Baroque interior, can accommodate more than 2,000 concertgoers. There are also seats with restricted views in the upper tiers. Integrated into the rear wall of the stage is an organ built by the Beckerath company in 1951. The original organ facade, i.e. the external shell of the instrument, built by the Walcker company in 1908 was retained.
The Recital Hall
The Laeiszhalle Recital Hall is the perfect venue for chamber music, song recitals, children’s concerts and jazz events. After the Second World War it was used for a time as a dance hall, before later being refurnished. In 2009 it was lovingly restored to how it was in 1954. Today, it is one of the few concert halls still boasting authentic 1950s design. It has a capacity of 640.
Studio E is a charming little stage with natural daylight and slightly ascending stalls with an encircling balustrade. The room is terraced and offers seating for an audience of 150.
The Brahms Foyer takes its name from the symbolist marble sculpture of Johannes Brahms, which the Leipzig artist Max Klinger created for the Laeiszhalle in 1909. The festive foyer on the first floor is perfect for chamber music concerts, receptions, and film and photo shoots. It is also the culinary centre of the Laeiszhalle.
In the Grand Hall you can still see the original facade of the Walcker organ dating back to 1908. In the 1950s, that one was replaced by an organ built according to Baroque principles. That was the first organ built by the now renowned organ-maker Rudolf von Beckerath, who established his organ-building workshop in Hamburg in 1949.