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It's not so easy to open a concert hall. Ask Montreal.

October 26, 2011 | 12:41 pm

La Maison Symphonique

La Maison Symphonique, the new concert hall for the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, opened its doors in September to much fanfare. The building was highly anticipated, having been delayed numerous times in two decades. But in the weeks since its grand opening, the hall has been drawing unflattering criticism from journalists who are finding that its sound leaves something to be desired.

As reported in Montreal's Gazette, critics from the city's newspapers have been faulting the hall's acoustics, in particular the way in which fortes -- or loud passages in music -- reverberate for listeners in the audience. A critic for La Presse found the fortes to be strident during one performance, while the Gazette critic "found those fortes more congested than strident, but you get the point: Forte is not the new hall's forte."

Critics from Le Devoir, France's Le Figaro and the site La Scene Musicale have also found the hall's acoustics to be lacking in certain respects. The New York Times' music critic wrote that "it is hard to assess the sound of any hall after hearing only one concert. I had reservations about this one, though the overall acoustics are resonant and clear."

The acoustics were designed by Artec Consultants, along with a team from the company Sound Space Design.

Before the hall was constructed, the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal performed in the Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, which critics also faulted for its less-than-stellar reverberative qualities. The orchestra is led by conductor Kent Nagano, who knows a thing or two about acoustically challenged venues from his tenure as music director of Los Angeles Opera, which performs at the barn-like Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

La Maison Symphonique was overseen by the architect Jack Diamond  and is estimated to have cost $261 million. (By comparison, the final cost of L.A.'s Walt Disney Concert Hall, which opened in 2003, is estimated at about $284 million.)

As reported by Bloomberg, opening night in Montreal was marred somewhat by the sight of unfinished walls and raw-wood handrails.

Montreal's new hall is one of several to open around the world this season. Others include the Soka Performing Arts Center in Orange County as well as halls in Helsinki, Finland, and Kansas City, Mo.

The Soka Performing Arts Center has drawn positive reviews for its acoustics, which were designed by Yasuhisa Toyota, who worked on Disney Hall.


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-- David Ng

Photo: An overall view of the inside of the new concert hall in Montreal. Credit: Guillaume Lavallée / AFP/Getty Images