From the Philharmonia Orchestra's experience as a resident orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall (RFH), I profoundly disagree with the arguments put forward in favour of electronic amplification for the RFH in Ed Dorrell's article ('Festival Hall revamp fiunsoundfl', AJ 12.2.04). Conductors, soloists and orchestral musicians are unanimously in favour of a natural acoustic for a concert hall. We all acknowledge that the present acoustic in the RFH leaves much to be desired, particularly from the orchestra's perspective.
Having taken part in mockup tests for Larry Kirkegaard's proposed changes to the configuration of the canopy and its replacement with a more flexible alternative, the Philharmonia Orchestra wholeheartedly supports the new scheme. Based on that experience, we feel that it will make a significant improvement to the acoustics without compromising the architectural integrity of the building. Improving conditions for the orchestra will inevitably lead to a much better experience for the audience.
From my exposure to concer t halls around the world, I know that halls with electric amplification systems always come second best to those with a natural acoustic. I am also confident in Larry Kirkegaard's considerable experience and ability to make the improvement we all crave. The RFH is an inspirational building, but its acoustic aspirations were never fully achieved. Now at last the South Bank Centre is putting that right.
David Whelton, managing director, Philharmonia Orchestra, London