Germans cheer new landmark as Hamburg concert hall opens

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Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie concert hall opens on Wednesday, delivering one of Germany’s most prestigious 21st century cultural projects – albeit some seven years late and busting its budget.

The new landmark, with a red-brick base and glass structure on top, curved windows and a roof that resembles the crest of a wave, is built on a 1960s warehouse that stored tea, tobacco and cocoa, reports Reuters.

Overlooking Hamburg harbor, it evokes a ship floating on water and is part of a development that uses old warehouses to create residential and office space in Germany’s biggest port.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, a regular at the annual Wagner festival in Bayreuth, and President Joachim Gauck will attend the inauguration on Wednesday evening. The program includes works by Beethoven, Cavalieri and Wagner.

Music-lovers are keen to judge the acclaimed acoustics in the main hall which has 2,100 seats and where no member of the audience is more than 30 meters (yards) from the conductor.

The Hanseatic trading port of Hamburg, now a media hub with chic shopping arcades as well as its red light district around the Reeperbahn, hopes the hall will help draw tourists to Germany’s second-biggest city.

“The construction of the Elbphilharmonie is an invitation to the world to come to Hamburg to visit this extraordinary building and experience the power of music,” said Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz.

Architects Herzog & de Meuron have called the Elbphilharmonie a city in itself, with restaurants, a hotel and a 37 meter-high plaza between the brick and glass layers open to the public, offering a panorama of the city.

The cost to the city was put at about 75 million euros ($80 million) back in 2003 but has ballooned to some 790 million euros due in part to delays and legal disputes. It had been due to open in 2009.

The opening has come as a relief to Germans whose reputation for efficiency has been dented by delays on infrastructure projects, most notably Berlin’s new airport.

German media have praised the Elbphilharmonie’s ambition to perform a range of music, from traditional symphony concerts and operas to modern improvisations and electro music.

“In post-war Germany, culture was something like spiritual self-defense against a dark past and a murky present. That has changed. Today it is rather a confirmation that times are better,” wrote the Sueddeutsche Zeitung in an editorial.

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