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The acoustics on the stage at Herkulessaal

When you sit in a concert hall, listening to a concert, you only hear what is acoustically happening in your spot. However, the acoustic field is a complex entity, dependent on direction and distance. Whether you are in front row, up on the balcony or on stage, the perception changes from one spot to another.

Here, we would like to portray these differences with a few samples from different spots throughout the concert hall. Special 3D-microphones that create an omnidirectional, 360°-recording of the acoustic field were placed next to the musicians on stage and in the audience.

Signal processing converts the four input channels to one audio signal which is optimized for headphones and which can be manipulated interactively: changing your vantage point with your cursor will also change the acoustic pattern accordingly.

 

The following technical prerequisites apply to this spatial audio:
– On the PC and Mac in the browsers Chrome, Firefox, Opera or Microsoft Edge (in Safari you only hear a “fixed” stereo)
– Android from 4.2 or higher in the Youtube Android app
– iOS, you can only hear a fixed stereo in the Youtube iOS app

BRSO Positionierung Grafik (c) BR

1 = Conductor   2 = Violin (Tutti)   3 = Doublebass & Horn   4 = Woodwind section   5 = Timpani   6 = Audience (middle balcony)

Conductor

“The sound on the concert platform should be as close as possible to the sound in the rest of the hall. The hall needs warmth; the sound must be beautiful; it must be able to vibrate; it needs sufficient reverberation time and must provide enough leeway to shape the music.” Mariss Jansons

Listen to the orchestra from the position of the conductor.

Clip from a rehearsal of Rachmaninov, Symphonic Dances, 3rd Movement, Allegro vivace

 

Violin (Tutti)

“The conductor hears the orchestra like no one else in the hall, even differently from me, although I sit right next to him. But even that slight distance makes a huge difference: his ears are at least half a metre higher than mine. He and I are at completely different angles, especially in relation to the winds. My position is both in the centre and on the sidelines, and I hear the first violins disproportionately well. A couple of centimetres can make a big difference.” Anton Barakhovsky, first concertmaster

“I like to sit outside to the left in the first violins because I sit tall and the musicians behind me otherwise tend to complain. I can’t perceive the sonic balance in the orchestra as well because the other parts are fairly far away. But what I can hear very well is the resonance from the hall: I have one ear in the orchestra and another in the audience.” Franz Scheuerer, violin

Clip from a rehearsal of Mahler, Symphony No. 9, 3rd Movement: Rondo-Burleske

Doublebass & HORN

“The hall sounds fantastic and gives a lot back, but you can’t demand too much of it. We horn players sometimes sit to the left in the orchestra, sometimes to the right, and sometimes in the middle, depending on the programme, the wishes of the conductor and how much space the percussionists need. On the right we sit between the double basses and play fairly directly into the woodwind – which our colleagues don’t find particularly amusing. I prefer to sit to the left, where I feel a bit more free and sound very present.” Carsten Duffin, horn

Clip from a rehearsal of Mahler, Symphony No. 9, 2nd Movement: Im Tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers

Woodwind section

“From the audience’s vantage point I sit on the left, and I can’t hear my colleagues on the right very well – the violas, the trombones, the double basses, even the third and fourth oboe. In larger scorings what I mainly hear is the high brass behind me. When I play second flute, and thus in a lower register than the first, I can really let loose, even if it seems too loud to me. But that develops over time; meanwhile I’ve learned when to trust my ears.” Natalie Schwaabe, flute

“The Hercules Hall is wonderful up to late Mozart and early Beethoven. After that it becomes complicated. In romantic and late-romantic works my position is a bit awkward because a phalanx of trumpets, trombones and percussion sits behind me and I can’t hear the other parts. I’ve learnt to deal with it and to take my bearings on the bows of the strings and the conductor. But in some symphonies I have the feeling they’d work perfectly well without a bassoon.” Marco Postinghel, bassoon

Clip from a rehearsal of Mahler, Symphony No. 9, 2nd Movement: Im Tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers

Timpani

“From where I’m positioned the orchestra sounds very good. I sit directly in front of the rear wall, which makes the timpani sound very massive. I have to hold back, especially in larger works whose style actually calls for more sound. The timing is not easy owing to the distance from the strings; what I play arrives late, and I have to anticipate many entrances.” Raymond Curfs, timpani

Clip from a rehearsal of Mahler, Symphony No. 9, 3rd Movement: Rondo-Burleske

Audience – Balcony (center)

“When I am at home, listening to music, I can decide on the volume and intensity of it – whether I put on the headphones and immerse myself into the music or just listen to a youtube video on my smart phone. Here I am subjected to what the orchestra does. And that intensifies the experience – because you have to succumb to it. Instead of me being in control of the sound, the sound controls me.”  Concert visitor

“I admit, I do not know very much about acoustics. If it is said, a hall is good, then I can enjoy the music much more easily in it than in a bad hall. This can be due to the fact that the hall is really good. Or because I’m listening differently.” Concert visitor

Clip from a rehearsal of Rachmaninov, Symphonic Dances op 45, 3rd Movement