On your way to a concert here you'll likely see a half dozen policemen cordoning off a plaza nearby. This is because the concert hall is underneath it, and even the slightest footfall, let alone the odd skate board, competes with the music. This venue has been plagued with design flaws like this from the day it was opened.
During a recent performance here, right in the middle of the Schumann piano concerto, management had to calm some nerves as the audience had begun to panic. Seems like there was a gas leak somewhere. The Official Story given out was that an idling diesel locomotive on Track One in the neighboring railway station was sending exhaust fumes down an A/C intake. Nice try, but nobody bought it: The smell of gas is pretty unmistakable.
There's more bumpy spots ahead. When a new subway line is (finally) completed, it's been determined that concert-goers will be treated to an enhanced percussion section on account the clickity-clack from passing trains.
I've been fortunate enough to hear some extraordinary music performed here. The acoustics, as another reviewer noted, are really superb. And the Mother Ship interior is comfy, welcoming, and refined. This is in contrast to pedestrian access to the Philharmonie itself, which has for years been compromised by unsafe detours, very bad lighting, and dangerous traffic.
I regret to say that The City of Cologne deserves all too well its reputation, established since at least the 'seventies, as one of Europe's worst-run municipalities. And there is a good deal of competition for this distinction. One need only recall what happened just a mile or so from the Philharmonie : A subway tunnel under construction collapsed, killing some people, and destroying the city archive, effectively dumping a millennium of history into a deep, damp pit. Three years after the fact, no one's been able to determine the cause or establish responsibility.
Yes, the Philharmonie is a wonderful venue where one hears world-class artists. Trouble is, it's in the wrong town.
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