Frank Gehry's 90th birthday

Celebrating the architect of the Pierre Boulez Saal with a special concert

The open-minded and adventurous spirit that has made Frank Gehry one of the defining architects of our time can be felt in every performance that takes place in the concert hall that he designed. The unique space of the Pierre Boulez Saal is intimately connected with the personality of its architect—which made it the perfect setting for the celebration of Gehry’s 90th birthday on February 28, 2019. On this occasion, Daniel Barenboim, Martha Argerich, Michael Barenboim, students and lecturers of the Barenboim-Said Akademie and members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra who have been closely associated with the hall since its opening gathered for a musical tribute to Gehry’s life and work.

The program of this special concert combined a rarely heard composition by Robert Schumann with two iconic works of the hall's spiritual patron, Pierre Boulez. Daniel Barenboim, in his speech for Frank Gehry, emphasized the friendship of Gehry and Boulez, their shared goals, ideas and impetuses – which makes Pierre Boulez’ work Sur Incises the utmost suitable piece to be performed in his honour. The unusually scored work for three pianos, three harps and three percussionists – similar to his work Anthèmes II – uses spatial interactions and timbral combinations to generate sonic architectures of thrilling intricacy and wonder. Schumann’s Quintet Variations, that was performed between the two works of Boulez, also represent an experiment in timbre and sound.

The Pierre Boulez Saal is one of the emotionally most resonant works of Frank Gehry. It speaks not only to his deep love for music, but also to his relationship with Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez. With this hall, Gehry implemented Boulez’ longstanding concept of a “modular performance space” (a salle modulable) capable of providing and intimate, all-encompassing, and flexible experience of music. A hall which, through the variability of spatial interrelations between performers and between the musicians and audience, takes into account and enhances nuances of perception. As Daniel Barenboim phrased it on this evening: “In this hall, we are all surrounded by you and this is what gives every person who plays in this hall this very special feeling that is different from every other hall in the world. Everything becomes one. This is my definition of music. And this is what this hall is about.”