The Israel Philharmonic began three consecutive evenings of concerts in San Paolo on Sunday night.  

San Paolo deserves a great concert hall, and since 1999, it has one; Sala Sao Paolo, the Julio Prestes Cultural Complex.  It’s on the level of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Boston’s Symphony Hall and the Musikverein in Vienna. 

Not like any other train station

The 1926 railway station built in the style of Louis XVI was renovated by the State of San Paulo and is the home of the state symphony orchestra, a music high school and academy.  It was originally the train station and administrative center of coffee “barons” who wished to export beans directly and cheaply from the interior to the port of Santos.  In the 21st century, it has become the symbol of re-vitalizing the depressed center of the city.

 

Imagine converting Grand Central Station into a concert hall! (It is actually similar to the original Penn Station in New York City.) The most successful architects and technicians were brought in to advise in the renovation. The building is isolated from the city’s noise by tons of concrete in a new foundation. 

 

The concert hall, which is the former central hall of the station, today seats 1500.  22 balconies hang between the granite columns which reach floor to ceiling.  The wood ceiling, suspended by cables, is completely adjustable to “tune” the acoustics. 

Ceiling of the lobby

The renovation was tastefully done, preserving the European-colonial elegance and assimilating all the latest techniques in electronic and acoustic engineering.  The State and city didn’t skimp in budget or vision and the results put San Paolo on the level of the world’s best concert halls.   

 Sala Sao Paolo from the stage

Maestro Mehta invited students of the Academy to the Monday morning rehearsal of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony and the hall was full of young people and the press.

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