Located at 36 Wigmore Street in Marylebone, London, is the famous Wigmore Hall. It is regarded as one of the world’s great concert halls. It was originally built in 1901 and was named Bechstein Hall. The impressive building was designed by British architect Thomas Edward Collcutt, who was also responsible for designing the Savoy Hotel on the Strand and the Palace Theatre.
The building was initially used as a display hall for a German company called Bechstein Pianos, who had a piano shop next door. However, during WW1 Bechstein Hall was seized on the grounds that it was enemy property under the passing of the Trading with the Enemy Amendment Act in 1916. It was sold at auction for a fraction of its value, with Debenhams purchasing it for £56,500. It was rechristened as Wigmore Hall in 1917.
Wigmore Hall didn’t enjoy its ‘golden years’ until the late 1970s, under Australian born Director William Lyne. Lyne was able to get Arthur Rubinstein to play at the hall in 1978. Rubinstein was a famous Polish-American classical pianist, regarded as one of the greatest of the 20th Century. By the mid-1970s, Rubenstein’s eyesight had begun to deteriorate aged 89. He decided to retire from the stage and wanted to return to Wigmore Hall to do his last ever recital, as the hall was where he’d done his first recital over 70 years previously. His appearance at Wigmore Hall was a major turning point for the venue.
Lyne introduced the concept of themed seasons to the hall’s program of events, which proved to be popular. He also invested time nurturing new talents, such as Alice Coote and Joshua Bell. By investing time in new talent, he was able to cultivate their loyalty. Lyne served as Creative Director for 37 years, taking up the post in 1966 through to 2003.
Today, John Gilhooly is the Director of Wigmore Hall. Gilhooly, OBE, is a classical singer and first joined the hall in 2000 as CEO. He was appointed Creative Director in 2005 and took over from Paul Kildea, who served as Creative Director from 2003-2005. The music world was shocked by his resignation after just 2 years in the post. During Gilhooly’s time as Director, he has maintained and expanded Wigmore Hall’s repertoire for the classical song, chamber music and early music.
He has also introduced new initiatives to Wigmore Hall, in the hope of diversifying its audience. For example, jazz evenings, world music and late night concerts are now hosted at Wigmore Hall, attracting a younger audience to the famous venue.
Why not start your evening with dinner at Aubaine, click here to see some of the French food on offer.
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