Stories » Berlin's new 'Pierre Boulez Saal' thrills / Los Angeles Times

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Berlin's new 'Pierre Boulez Saal' thrills / Los Angeles Times

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The German city of Hamburg has become a media darling with its awesome Elbphilharmonie, a new concert hall that stands taller, cost more and is more gawk-able than any other. Berlin, however, now has the exact opposite in the graceful, airy, idealistic Pierre Boulez Saal, which opened here Saturday night. Rather than stand tall, it stands for something. Pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim conceived his seemingly modest 683-seat hall as part of the new Barenboim-Said Academy, where young Arab and Israeli musicians train together so that they might someday learn to work together. And the new hall is a place for music to visibly - and audibly! - make a powerfully public cultural statement. To that end, the Walt Disney Concert Hall team of architect Frank Gehry and acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota designed the oval-shaped room primarily with music in mind. And serve music Boulez Hall surely could Saturday in an uncompromising 3½-hour program of works progressing historically from Mozart to Boulez and beyond, grippingly played by Barenboim's new Boulez Ensemble.  PHOTO: (Maurizio Gambarini / Associated Press)