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Between the middle and the end of the nineteenth century, what is now the museum zone around the Museumplein was then on the city limits. Its transformation and integration within Amsterdam took place in the economic growth process of that time.
The expansion projects in the south of the city were generally based on housing with a social function. The zone emerging around the Museumplein square was, however, also becoming a residential district with spacious avenues and the local residents of the zone were very determined to make it a place of reference for culture and luxury.
The character and wishes of the district’s bourgeois magnates led to projects such as the marvellous Concertgebouw. If you are still unaware of what we are referring to, all you need to know is that this is one of the three best concert halls in the world.
In 1881, a group of rich enthusiasts became aware that a city like Amsterdam, which was enjoying excellent cultural and artistic development, particularly reflected in the important museums that were emerging, was significantly deficient in music, as it only had two small concert halls.
The company that developed this private initiative featured the architect Pierre Cuypers, who had designed the neighbouring Rijksmuseum. It put out to tender the creation of a large oval hall with a capacity for two thousand people.
Adolf Leonard van Gendt won the award and submitted a plan inspired by French buildings and the architectural style that has gone down in history as Viennese Classicism, based on the Gewandhaus building in Leipzig.
The economic climate was not particularly favourable and there disagreements arose with the city council because the council would have to cover the occasional small canal, provide access and supply the surrounding streets with lighting. The great inauguration of the Concertgebouw nevertheless took place in April 1888, with a concert performed by a 120-piece orchestra and a 500-voice choir.
What is truly striking about the building is not its facade, but the Grote Saal, its main auditorium. It was 44 metres long, 28 metres wide and had an elevated stage, a huge organ in the wooden gallery and multicolour decoration.
Despite the passage of time and renovation work, which includes the replacement of the underwater pillars that support this huge building, the Concertgebouw has remained intact. The acoustics of its main hall are considered to be excellent. It therefore enjoys international prestige and features a concert programme that is the envy of many concert halls all over the world.
If you are a music lover, we therefore recommend you attend one of the concerts held here. While listening to a late Romantic composition, for example, you will no doubt be secretly grateful to the district’s bourgeoisie for going ahead with this great work.
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