Copenhagen in the 21st century has not only built itself a stunning new opera house, but also a world-class concert house called the DR Koncerthuset — “DR” being Danish Radio a.k.a. the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.
The new concert house is located in Copenhagen’s new district “Ørestad North” and was opened in January 2009. It was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, who also designed the Institute of the Arab World in Paris in the 1980s, the re-launched opera house in Lyon in the 1990s and more recently the controversial Philharmonie de Paris, which was inaugurated (too early, in the architect’s opinion) in 2015.
From the outside the new concert house in Copenhagen looks like a blue cube, but the facade is actually a semi-transparent blue screen which can be illuminated in various ways, perhaps to brighten up the long Danish nights in the winter.
Actually there are four concert halls in this new building. The big one is called Studio 1 and seats 1800 people. The other three are smaller, going down in size to the “intimate” Studio 4. All four concert halls have variable acoustics, designed by the Japanese acoustic engineer Yasuhisa Toyota, so the sound can be changed around to fit the needs of different ensembles and types of music.
On their website and their tickets (and their T-Shirts that are on sale at the box office) they sometimes spell the word Koncerthuset as
alluding to Studios 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the concert house.
The main concert season was already over when I visited Copenhagen in June of 2009, but fortunately they were running a series of short “Symphonic Summer” concerts in the large Studio 1 at reduced prices — subtitled Klassiske koncerter for begyndere meaning “classical concerts for beginners” — in an effort to introduce the new concert house to as many people as possible. The tickets to these concerts all cost the same, namely 120 kroner per ticket, which is just over 16 Euros in real money.
The concert I attended consisted of only one symphony, namely First Symphony by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897).
This is a symphony that I was rather ODed on as a child, because it was the only piece of classical music that my grandparents had on old 78 rpm records, so I heard it over and over again and have not gone out of my way to hear it as an adult. But it was the only one that was playing, so I went, and it was a good experience, like a Blast from the Past but in a very modern setting.
As you can see from the photos, the seating sections in the concert hall are arranged in a somewhat asymmetric way. This reminds me of the Philharmonie concert hall that was built in Berlin half a century ago, from 1956 to 1963, by the architect Hans Scharoun (1893-1972) and of the new Philharmonie de Paris by Jean Nouvel.
On my ticket it said, among other things: “OBS! Optages til TV.” I assume this means something like: Attention! this concert will be recorded for television.
Which it certainly was! They had seven television cameras, four big ones controlled by people and three smaller ones that were remote-controlled so they could swing around and get close up pictures of various musicians in the orchestra. One of the remote-controlled cameras looked like E.T. and was on a track in front of the orchestra. During the symphony it zipped silently back and forth to get pictures from various angles, especially of the conductor and the first violin section.
Like the new opera house, the new concert house is not located in the traditional city center — but don’t let that stop you from going there! From my hotel it took me exactly twelve minutes to get to the new concert house by bicycle, after I knew the way.
And if for some reason you can’t go by bike there is a Metro station called DR Byen right by the concert hall, on the M1 line.
Skuespilhuset = Royal Danish Playhouse
Besides the new opera house and the new concert hall, Copenhagen also has a beautiful new Skuespilhuset by the harbor as a major venue for spoken theater.
Because of my totally ikke-eksisterende knowledge of Danish I did not attend a performance at the Skuespilhuset, but it looks really nice and from their advertising it seems that they do a wide range of spoken theater productions, from William Shakespeare to Henrik Ibsen, Eugene O’Neill, Ludvig Holberg (whose statue is outside the Old Stage), Ödön von Horváth and Friedrich Dürrenmatt, as well as new plays by contemporary Danish playwrights. It would be great if someone who understands Danish and has been to a performance there could leave me a comment about it at the end of this post.
The Black Diamond
Another brilliant new building on the Copenhagen waterfront is the Black Diamond, opened in 1999, which is part of the Danish Royal Library. Like most national libraries, this one has to expand periodically because it is the depository for copies of all books and other publications that are printed in the country. The Royal Danish Library claims to have copies of all books printed in Denmark since the 17th century, and even most before that, including the first book that was printed in Danish in 1482.
The new Black Diamond building also includes a concert hall, in addition to huge amounts of shelf space for the library.
My photos in this post are from 2009. I revised the text in 2017.