Wigmore Hall

recital venue in London

The Wigmore Hall is a famous concert hall in London. It is called a “recital hall” because it is designed for recitals: concerts given by one soloist, or sometimes a small group of musicians (chamber music). It is in Wigmore Street in the centre of London, just north of Oxford Street.

The Wigmore Hall was built in 1901 by the German firm Bechstein who made pianos. Originally it was called Bechstein Hall. Bechstein’s showrooms were next door. The hall was built in a Renaissance style, with alabaster and marble walls and a rectangular hall with a small, raised stage. Above the stage the ceiling is in the form of a cupola which has a painting which shows the Soul of Music looking up at the Genius of Harmony: a ball of eternal fire whose rays are reflected across the world. These are separated by thorns from the rest of the picture which includes a musician and, on the other side, Psyche inspiring a composer to write music.

The "Bechstein Hall" opened on 31 May 1901 with a concert given by the virtuoso pianist and composer Ferruccio Busoni and violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. During its early period many famous musicians played there, including Artur Schnabel, Pablo Sarasate, Percy Grainger, Myra Hess, Arthur Rubinstein and Camille Saint-Saëns.

Because it was owned by a German firm, the hall was seized as enemy property during World War I. The hall with over 130 pianos was sold at an auction to Debenhams for a very small amount of money, and was re-opened as Wigmore Hall in 1917. Musicians who have performed there since include Sviatoslav Richter, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Victoria de los Ángeles, Sergei Prokofiev, Shura Cherkassky, Paul Hindemith, Andrés Segovia, Julian Bream, Peter Pears, Benjamin Britten and Francis Poulenc.

Today the Wigmore Hall seats 540 people. Many concerts are broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Famous musicians perform there, as well as young musicians who are just starting their career.

The Wigmore Hall publishes on its own record label "Wigmore Hall live" recordings of concerts that were given by famous musicians. The pianos in the Wigmore Hall today are made by Steinway.

The Wigmore Hall's director is John Gilhooly. His future plans include having lots of music by living composers

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