The acoustical optimisation of the Joseph-Keilberth-Saal, based on recommendations by the renowned Japanese acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, began in the summer of 2007, during the orchestra's end-of-season break. The resonance of the lower strings in particular – cellos and double basses – needed improving, so first the structure supporting the orchestra platform was rebuilt, making it springier than before, and the platform itself was stripped of varnish, leaving a more acoustically transparent wooden surface, which reflects the orchestra’s sound less harshly.
Next, in the summer of 2008, risers of variable height were constructed out of American yellow cedar, matching in appearance and shape the existing risers which can be extended from the rear wall, so that the orchestra can now be seated in a stepped, semi-circular, arena-like configuration. Thanks to this stepped seating, sound is now reflected from higher up as well as laterally, so that not only can the players see each other better, the different sections and instruments can also be heard better. Another advantage of having the musicians sit much closer to each other than before is that, on the platform itself, players can distinguish individual orchestral parts better, while in the hall the audience receives a noticeably more homogeneous overall orchestral sound.
Finally, wooden cladding elements, filled with insulating material, were mounted on the rear wall: previously, its varnished surface occasionally allowed the brass and percussion to overpower other sections, but the new cladding reduces these excessive reflections.
Costing some €200,000, these improvements have won high praise from all quarters. They were made possible by the great generosity of the Foundation of Upper Franconia; and in addition to funds from the Orchestra's own budget, a notable contribution came from the Society of Friends of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra.
The new risers’ concert debut came during the "Bamberg Summer Nights" in June/July 2008, followed by recording sessions in September 2008, in both cases under Chief Conductor Jonathan Nott. The pictures below were taken during sessions for Mahler’s Symphony No.9, a co-production between Bavarian Radio and the Swiss label TUDOR (photos: Peter Eberts).
Yasuhisa Toyota optimizes the Bamberg Concert and Congress Hall
Read Marco Frei’s article, published in the German magazin Das Orchester (October 2008) and translated by Nick Morgan
Yasuhisa Toyota visits Bamberg in July 2008
Read his interview (in German), published in Fränkischer Tag (2 July 2008).