Orchestra Recordings at Kulturpalast Dresden – Music in Dresden

The new hall of the Kulturpalast Dresden (Photo: Markenfotografie)

Kazuya Nagae
Nagoya University of the Arts

the introduction

I recently had the opportunity to visit the new concert hall in Kulturpalast Dresden. I was able to gather information about a recording project for the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, which was implemented in a batch of live recordings and subsequent recordings.

The old hall of the Kulturpalast opened in 1969 and quickly became the center of art and culture in Dresden. The building has been completely renovated since 2013, and a new concert hall was installed and reopened in April 2017. The palace’s interior was completely rebuilt in the process, but the entire exterior has been preserved as fully as possible the way it was built nearly half a century ago.

I watched the live webcast of the reopening ceremony from Japan, and the more I got to know the background of this concert, the more attention I became to detail.

Dresden Palace of Culture

The old multi-purpose hall (Photo: Hans Reinicke, Source: Deutsche Fotothek)

Opened in 1969, Kulturpalast Dresden was a typical cultural institution in the former German Democratic Republic. The shape of the building is a simple rectangle, the facade is characterized by white walls and windows with mirrored bronze glass. What struck me were the similarities with the design of other buildings from the GDR era, such as the Palace of the Republic in Berlin. On the outer walls on the west side of the building and on the walls in the hallway, I saw murals typical of socialist propaganda at the time, and I realized why only the interior of the building had been rebuilt, but the facade had been renovated accordingly. its original appearance. Before the renovation, the Palace of Culture was used as a multi-purpose hall with a maximum of about 2,400 seats for various events such as orchestral concerts, concerts with sound system, meetings, etc.

The following description can be found on the Palace of Culture website:

“Since the 1990s, Kulturpalast has been part of the international concert and events market. The multifunctional hall concept was only partially able to cope with its requirements. Artists, organizers and audiences, especially from the classical music sector, complained about the problematic acoustics compared to the leading concert halls. There was a need To the space already available less and less.For the Dresden Philharmonic, the hall, which was celebrated with great fervor in 1969, was increasingly an artistic obstacle.

The new hall of the Museum of Public Health (Photo: Martin Morgenstern)

The withdrawal of the Saxon State Orchestra to the reconstructed Semperoper in 1992 was the first sign of the beginning of a loss of importance. New buildings such as the Frauenkirche (2005), the Dresden Exhibition Center (1999), the Congress Center (2004) and the Hall at the German Health Museum (2010) competed with the building with their events. Additionally, there were increasing operational limitations resulting from technical wear and tear and outdated fire protection. In 2007, Kulturpalast had to be closed temporarily for the most urgent renovations.”

According to this description, the aging of the building was one of the reasons for the renovation of the Kulturpalast, but I think that another important aspect, the acoustic performance of the place compared to other halls specially designed for orchestral music (eg the Berlin Philharmonie), was not satisfactory. Perhaps it is appropriate to use the phrase “renovation of the building with complete reconstruction of the concert hall” to describe the renovation of the Palace of Culture.

The new construction of the hall

The Palace of Culture was closed for renovations in October 2012; Construction began in October 2013. The architectural design was acquired by GMP, i.e. Meinhard von Gerkan and Stephan Schütz with Nicolas Pomränke. The construction was carried out by the gmp architekten in Hamburg, and the sound planning office Peutz (Netherlands) took over the acoustic planning of the concert hall and other rooms in the building. Prior to the reconstruction of the Concert Hall, all previous internal structures were completely removed (see photo) and the Concert Hall was completely rebuilt within the available volume. The following description can be found on the website of the new hall:

Pictured: Martin Morgenstern

The new concert hall is the heart of the converted Palace of Culture in the city centre. Similar to the Philharmonie in Berlin and the Leipzig Gewandhaus, it is built in the form of vineyards, which guarantees first-class acoustics. The hall is crowned with the organ Eule (Bautzen) containing 67 recorders and 4,109 tubes – the only Dresden musical organ created for a repertoire from the 19th and 20th centuries. For the first time in its 150-year history, the 1,760-seat concert hall and theater toward the center of the hall offer the best spatial and acoustic conditions in the Dresden Philharmonic.

The renovation work lasted more than three and a half years. On April 28, 2017, a reopening ceremony was held with the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Michael Sanderling to celebrate the renewal of the Kulturpalast. The party began with Shostakovich’s “ceremonial introduction”, the harbinger of the history of this place under the influence of socialism; Mendelssohn’s violin concerto followed and, finally, the fourth movement of Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony”, which was also the last work of the previous opening concert of the Kulturpalast in 1969.

Registration overview

The Dresden Philharmonic was founded in 1871 and quickly defined the Dresden music scene with the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden (SSKD). Kurt Masur, Gunter Herbig, Herbert Kegel, Marek Janowski and other famous performers have served as bandleaders, and Michael Sanderling has been the band’s leader from 2011 (until 2019). Sunderling was born the third son of the famous commander Kurt Sanderling, who served for a time as the chief commander of the SSKD Command; He grew up in a musical family with his two older brothers Thomas and Stefan. He began his musical career as a cellist and moved to the stage of conductors in the early 2000s.

Recording of Staatskapelle Dresden by Otmar Suitner (Eterna, 1973). Photo: Hansjoachim Mirschel, Source: Deutsche Fotothek

Several earlier recordings of the Philharmonic with audio material from the East German era were published by Deutsche Schallplatten Berlin; In Japan, recordings and CDs are sold by SONY mora and e-onkyo music, among others. The CDs have been released by Sony Classical since 2015, after Sanderling became a major conductor, and programming these CDs is really difficult. These CDs are produced as part of a complete recording of Beethoven and Shostakovich’s symphonies.

Prior to the Kulturpalast’s renewal, registration was made at the Lukaskirche in Dresden; After the renovation work was completed, the recordings were moved to the Kulturpalast, where rehearsals, concerts and follow-up recordings were recorded.

This time I was gathering information about a recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8. The live recordings took place on October 7 and 8, 2017, and the subsequent recordings took place on the morning of October 9. This registration will be released soon and is part of the overall registration that will be completed in 2019.

Recording Team

Photo: Nagae

In Germany, orchestral recordings are usually supervised by two sound engineers, one as sound engineer/producer and the other as sound engineer. This registry is no exception. The sound engineer/producer was Wolfram Nehls (freelance), and the sound engineer was René Möller (Teldex Studio Berlin). Jacob Wonder (a student of UdK) supported the Monday.

recording system

Unlike the Berlin Philharmonie and the Leipzig Gewandhaus, this concert hall does not have a control room. However, there are some rooms that have been properly wired so that they can be used as control rooms if needed. The registry configuration is shown in this graphic.

microphone arrangement

The concert hall is not equipped with a winch microphone system, but there are plenty of holes for hanging microphones from the ceiling. Machining was done as shown in this drawing. When asked why he used different types of microphones, René Muller replied that he imagined different sound characteristics at different points.


Photo: Nagae

In Dresden I experienced a concert hall whose exterior has been renovated in the style of the original building period and completely remodeled from the inside. When I gathered the information, I realized again that Germany was divided after the war, and I felt that Dresden needed to respect its individual cultural history in order to preserve its identity for the future. From the point of view of sound recordings, it also became clear how much the interrelationship between sound engineer, orchestra and conductor had intensified in a long-standing partnership. Through my research and interviews, I understood how we engineers must deepen our relationship with sound bodies and further develop relevant ideas in Japan. So I would like to thank all the people I spoke with in Dresden.

The original post is here; Abbreviated and translated into German by Martin Morgenstern

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