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Classical music has long and profound roots in Germany. Home to Wagner, Bach and Beethoven, the country continues to internationally lead the way when it comes to music. As many arts organisations across the globe are wrestling with dwindling financial support and audiences, Germany is growing its concert halls, talent and – most importantly – audiences, dubbing the country Europe’s Classical Music Powerhouse.
Last year saw the completion of some major musical building projects in Germany. The investments embody the country’s confidence in its music future and are welcome artistic houses, despite the budgeting and scheduling drama that has surrounded them. Whoever said Germans are great at sticking to budgets and timelines has clearly never looked into their concert halls and airport debacles. In Hamburg, the 110-metre-high, glass-clad, Elbphilharmonie, opened at the city’s waterfront. The concert hall took over a decade to build and was hugely over budget, at €789m. However, now that it is open, controversy has given way to praise for the hall’s stunning interior and amazing acoustics. Over in Berlin, the Pierre Boulez Saal finally opened and fulfilled the city’s need for a highly-specific chamber music venue. It is also a key part of the newly-opened Barenboim-Said Academy, founded to provide training for young Israeli and Arab musicians in the spirit of Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Another overdue Berlin project was completed last year, the newly renovated Staatsoper Unter den Linden. Running four years behind schedule and costing almost double the original budget, the final restoration was finally complete and the jewel in the capital’s operatic crown was back in business.
While these new buildings guarantee headlines, these lavish new spaces would mean nothing without the capacity to fill them, and this is where Germany is truly thriving. To better understand how music in Germany has reached such heights, it is necessary to look back to its reunification. Until the fall of the Berlin Wall, some of the country’s top orchestras were behind the Iron Curtain, as were many of the city’s now-famous opera houses, including Staatsoper unter den Linden. The result, once the wall came down, was a huge network of musical talent from both east and west. During this time Germany also invested to gain its newfound musical organisations international recognition. The effects of this are still being felt today, as major classical and operatic talents are emerging across the country and fans are filling its world-class concert halls as a result.
As agents and other music administrators who travel across the globe report half-empty halls, the opposite is consistently found throughout Germany, where homegrown talent continues to attract crowds and funding on an enviable scale. The country’s wondrous new concert halls are ready, the singers are in good form and the orchestras are tuned to perfection – earning Germany the coveted title of Europe’s best and flourishing classical music scene.