With its beautifully decorated concert auditorium and its renowned acoustic quality, Victoria Hall is the place to go for classical and jazz concerts in Geneva. I have been frequenting Victoria Hall for several years now for Les Grands Interprètes series of concerts, which take place eight times a year and bring to Geneva some of the best known soloists and orchestras from around the world. Victoria Hall is also the home of the Orchestra Suisse Romande, which is based in Geneva. For a full programme of concerts for January to March 2013 see: http://www.ville-ge.ch/culture/victoria_hall/en/programme.html.
From the Victoria Hall website we learn that it was built between 1891 and 1894 by the Geneva architect, John Camoletti, and was the brainchild of a British resident of Geneva and music lover, Daniel Barton, who dedicated it to his sovereign, Queen Victoria. He donated the building to the city of Geneva before he died. The building was restored after it was partly destroyed in a fire in 1984 and the auditorium was renovated in 2006 to make it more comfortable for concert goers and musicians.
The façade of the building is inspired by classical and renaissance architecture, with two ionic columns, a large statue of a nude representing harmony, several reliefs and massive corner towers which are engraved with the names of symphonic composers. The concert auditorium, however, is the real surprise. The decoration is in a neo-baroque style verging on the rococo, with elaborate mouldings covered in gold leaf against a red background. All this extravagant decoration creates a sumptuous warm atmosphere and adds to the enjoyment of the musical experience.
Victoria Hall is located in the musical and cultural center of Geneva, on rue du Général-Dufour, next to the Maison des Arts du Grütli and a few steps from the opera house and the music conservatory. Tickets to concerts can be obtained in many venues in Geneva, including Espace Ville de Genève on the Pont de la Machine; Balexert; FNAC; Globus; Manor; Service Culturel Migros, rue du Prince; and Victoria Hall, one hour before each concert.
Among my most memorable experiences throughout the years I have been going to concerts at Victoria Hall were certainly when I first heard Yo Yo Ma playing the cello and Evgeny Kissin and Lang Lang perform on the piano, and during the current season when Murray Perahia directed the orchestra of St. Martin in the Fields and played the piano in an amazing all Mozart concert. The concerts are extremely well attended, since Geneva is noted for its high quality performances and knowledgeable music connoisseurs. The Genevese are also a very appreciative audience. They applaud musicians with such enthusiasm that two to three encores are not unusual. This being said, one can almost always find tickets at the last minute.
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