A Celebration of the Philarmonie de Paris

May 19, 2016 | By French Culture

On Wednesday, May 11th, 2016 Cultural Counselor Bénédicte de Montlaur delivered the following words to honor the Philharmonie de Paris. The evening included a conversation between Laurent Bayle, General Director of La Philharmonie – Cité de la musique, and Victoria Sanger, Vice-President of the Education Health and Arts Foundation. Patricia Barbizet, Chairwoman of the Board of La Philharmonie - Cité de la musique, also delivered introductory remarks. The event took place at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York. 

It is a pleasure to be here with you tonight to celebrate the first anniversary of the Philharmonie de Paris. Jean Nouvel spent almost ten years planning and executing this architectural gem. Much has been said about the beauty and the scale of its architecture. Far from being cold, as some buildings of this size can be, the Philharmonie exudes warmth. At the opening ceremony, the interior was described possessing as a combination of intimacy and imagination. The true beauty of the Philharmonie is that since its opening, it has surpassed static aesthetics to become a vibrant, living entity.

Over the past year, the Philharmonie has not ceased to amaze us by the versatility and excellence of its repertoire. The symbol of the birds covering the roof of the building is representative of a relentless creative freedom. The musical experience is intensified by the quality of the acoustics; thanks to Sir Harold Marshall and Yasuhisa Toyota, the sound quality is one of the best in the world, rivaling the greatest opera houses. But more than a musical institution, the Philharmonie has become a center for life.

Well over one million people visited the Philharmonie of Paris this year. In addition, there was an increase of 65% of the combined attendance of Cité de la Musique/Salle Pleyel in 2014. These numbers testify to an ability not only to sustain the previous audience but also to develop a new and perhaps less traditional group of concert-goers.

The building is open to everyone -- even its rooftop has pedestrian paths.  Altogether it is an amazing symbol of the democratization of art.

The Philharmonie is home to five orchestras, including the Orchestre de Paris, Les Arts Florissants and the Ensemble Intercontemporain, but its musical programming surpasses traditional orchestras. It includes an eclectic selection ranging from a symphonic repertoire to electro pop. Its diversity also mirrors its audience. It brings together amateurs and professionals, neighborhood youth and classical music aficionados, locals and internationals.

In just a year, the Philharmonie has shown that Paris is not only a center for the arts but also a portal to the rest of the world. For instance, in 2015, one of the exhibition spaces paid tribute to David Bowie. It has opened its doors to many international talents including quite a few Americans. The upcoming season of the Philharmonie includes Steve Reich, Bobby McFerrin, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The Philharmonie is cross-generational, cultural and societal. It is rare to be able to create something so beautiful yet so accessible. For this I would like to warmly thank the great people who have made this possible: Laurent Bayle, General Director of La Philharmonie – Cité de la musique, Patricia Barbizet, Chairwoman of the Board of La Philharmonie - Cité de la musique and Victoria Sanger, Vice-President of the Education Health and Arts Foundation, one of the institution’s long term partners. Your work surpasses all expectations; in just one year you have been able to make this institution an obligatory stop for music lovers. I am sure that the Philharmonie will continue to surprise and delight us in the many years to come.

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