LA Philharmonic/Robertson Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, USA

The tiers and the triumph

At a fraction of the cost of the Dome, Los Angeles has a sensational new building with a laudable purpose. The Walt Disney Concert Hall, new home of the LA Philharmonic, cost a mere $274m to build, despite taking 16 years to realise. The shimmering steel exterior - in parts more shiny than its Spanish sibling in Bilbao - is a fantastic sight atop Bunker Hill; its oddly formed protuberances triumphantly challenging conventionally shaped neighbours, not least the LA Phil's old home, the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion which lies exactly across the road.

A mere three weeks has passed since the hall's glitzy and glamorous multiple galas and the party feel is palpable. Frank Gehry's structure is a fantasy of form, something of an improvisation, and, within the foyers, nothing is quite what it seems. The effect is disorientating until one enters the auditorium which, despite swathes of wood, curved and draped to resemble the planks of a galleon, obeys some recognisable logic.

As the hottest ticket in town, the seats don't come cheap, but the seating capacity at 2265 is a third smaller than the Chandler Pavillion (although similar to the Barbican where prices are significantly cheaper). The Disney Hall feels small but positively so. The "vineyard" seating (influenced by the Berlin Philharmonie), where the audience is ranged in uneven tiers around the orchestra, permits a feeling of intimacy.

David Robertson, a native "Angelenos", was the conductor of this event, giving music director Esa-Pekka Salonen a brief respite - although he sat immediately in front of me, intently scrutinising the evening's procedures. The programme seemed designed to show off the acoustic properties of the hall, beginning with a largish chamber work, Milhaud's La Création du Monde, continuing with a classical concerto, Mozart's K503 in C major, and ending with Bartok's rarely performed but massively orchestrated ballet in one act, The Wooden Prince.

The sound of the opening "bluesy" saxophone of the Milhaud was amazingly immediate, with extraordinary clarity and warmth. Hydraulic risers can be raised and lowered, offering the widest possible solutions to instrument placement, but a polite interpretation of Milhaud's somewhat sleazy work was not enhanced. And the Mozart fared little better, Robertson driving the music with such exaggerated gestures that Emanuel Ax, at his best in lingering rubati, could establish little spontaneity with members of the orchestra.

Bartok's Wooden Prince displayed once again the incredible clarity of the hall's acoustic, even if surtitles were maddeningly distracting (and unnecessary). This audience found the work too long, despite the orchestra giving of its best. Bartok's astonishing colouring, with beguiling col legno, was etched on the air.

The new concert hall is a triumph. Lucky Los Angeles.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas