The Boston Symphony Orchestra wanted a 1200-seat concert hall at Tanglewood for several purposes: A rehearsal space for the Tanglewood Music Center student orchestra; a recital space for guest artists and members of the BSO during their summer residency; a recording venue; and a performance space for everything from chorus to jazz ensembles to full orchestra. They also wanted the hall to open to the outdoors to extend the audience size.
Our approach was to create an intimate hall of sufficient volume to support the largest of the musical ensembles. The shape of the hall was influenced strongly by the Grosser Musikvereinssaal in Vienna and Symphony Hall in Boston–a narrow “shoebox” room with a high ceiling and multiple side galleries. A proscenium-like opening behind the audience allows listeners on the lawn to see into the hall and hear some natural sound. Sliding doors close the room for recordings, rehearsals, and chamber concerts.
With masonry walls, a wood floor, and lightly absorbing audience seating, the room retains sufficient reverberance even with the rear wall open. A set of telescoping orchestral risers allows efficient changeover from orchestral use to recital use. Vertical glass fiber panels (dubbed “toasters”) can drop down over the platform to control loudness and maintain clarity. The deeply sculpted ceiling incorporates a thin absorptive finish to counteract the brightness caused by humidity. The result is a warm, burnished sound, rich in bass, with shimmering, enveloping high string sound.
An outdoor sound system gives listeners on the lawn an amazing sense of being inside the hall. Microphones in the upper volume of the hall pick up naturally-reverberant sound and transfer it through a digital delay to speakers that flank the lawn seating in locations corresponding to the microphone locations. Combined with the sound from precedence loudspeakers mounted above the rear wall opening, the system gives a startlingly realistic effect. The natural sound of the concert hall is effortlessly extended to reach 3000+ patrons on the lawn.
The finished facility has drawn international attention as an outstanding performance and recording venue.