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<<  -- 3 --  Rex Harley    DAY OF JUDGMENT


Behind this cheeky expression of local pride lies a certain truth. Graz is a largely overlooked architectural jewel. The oldest quarter of the city, nestling under the lofty castle hill, is the largest survival of its kind in middle Europe outside Prague. Winding streets open out into beautiful squares; imposing churches, in that intoxicating blend of Gothic and Baroque, punctuate the journey; and, easily missed, there are intimate courtyards tucked behind archways on the main streets. Meanwhile, just across the river, sits a bizarre and wonderful modern addition to the city's architecture: the new Kunsthaus, designed by British architects Colin Fournier and Peter Cook, referred to as 'the friendly alien'.

The Kunsthaus. Photo © Graz Tourismus
The Kunsthaus. Photo © Graz Tourismus

Out in the suburbs too things are happening. A local industrialist has financed the transformation of a large factory building into the performance venue that now bears his name. The Helmut-List-Halle is a superb example of what can be done when an enlightened patron joins forces directly with a great performer, for it was Nikolaus Harnoncourt, himself a native of Graz, who advised on the acoustic requirements. What he wanted was essentially a large wooden box, and that's what he got: large enough to contain, at maximum capacity, two thousand people. The interior is breathtakingly austere in appearance; simple but effective use of lighting creates the appropriate atmosphere. And, for both performances of Das Tag des Gerichts, the place was full.

Helmut-List-Halle, Konzertsaal. Photo © Graz Tourismus
Helmut-List-Halle, Konzertsaal. Photo © Graz Tourismus

It was a little disconcerting to have discovered beforehand, from one of the organisers, that Harnoncourt has effectively repudiated his earlier recording, but also intriguing. In what significant ways would his current interpretation differ? How, exactly, would he have 'improved' on the earlier interpretation?

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Copyright © 18 July 2004 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK


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