The ground on which the Historische Stadthalle now stands was privately owned by the Küpper family until 1894. In 1831, Abraham Küpper bought an old inn on the Johannisberg (one of the many hills on which Wuppertal is built), which had a hall seating some 1,000 people. The concerts held there may be regarded as the start of a long musical tradition on the Johannisberg. The decision to construct a concert hall and assembly room on this spot led to the announcement of an architectural competition in 1895.
The actual building phase lasted from 1896 to 1900 and the official opening of the Historische Stadthalle was celebrated from6 to 8 July 1900 with a dazzling musical festival, one of whose conductors was a young Richard Strauss.
Although the Historische Stadthalle survived both World Wars more or less unscathed, the character and appearance of the rooms were altered substantially in the fifties in keeping with the architectural taste of the day. All the pictorial elements and colourful mouldings disappeared under a layer of monochrome paint.
Sir Simon Rattle: “Acoustically, Wuppertal has one of the best concert halls in the world.”
A Finnish research team has scientifically proven what the international music world has already known for a long time: the Großer Saal in the Historische Stadthalle Wuppertal is acoustically among the best concert halls in Europe.
The Viennese Philharmonic feel “at home” here, the great pianist Hélène Grimaud called it an “almost magical space for music” and Sir Simon Rattle advised Munich music lovers to “take a look at Wuppertal”. Shortly after an interview with Rattle that appeared in the German newspaper Die Süddeutsche Zeitung in November 2012, Professor Tapio Lokki of Aalto University in Finland and his team announced their arrival in Wuppertal to take scientific readings of the Großer Saal.
The award-winning researcher has developed an innovative method which allows for the precise comparison of the acoustics of different concert halls. In addition to purely physical measurements, the method also takes account of sensory assessments of the room’s sound. Lokki’s conclusion: “Stadthalle Wuppertal is not very well known among acousticians worldwide. However, the hall has very nice acoustics and it should be much better known. We really liked the Stadthalle and it definitely supports the full dynamics that an orchestra can play. It is one of the best concert halls in Europe.”
The Finnish acousticians had developed a symphony orchestra simulator, the so-called “loudspeaker orchestra” and used it to capture the spatial acoustics of 19 European concert halls. In every location, it was assembled in exactly the same way so that the concert hall was the only variable factor that could influence the sound of the recordings. Later on in the lab, this allowed for an extremely precise comparison of the acoustic properties.
When listening to music from the various different concert halls using spatial sound reproduction in the lab, all subjective audio assessments were conducted using sensory test methods that revealed the different factors affecting perception in the individual concert halls. With this combination of objective and subjective sensory data, Professor Lokki’s team was able to explain the preference for certain concert halls.
The traditional “shoebox” style of architecture clearly has the edge. Europe’s acoustically best concert halls – the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the Wiener Musikverein, the Historische Stadthalle Wuppertal and the Konzerthaus Berlin – are all built in a similar way.