THE other night I attended a Los Angeles Philharmonic performance of music by Stucky, Debussy, Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The first half was exceptional. Thanks to the design of acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, Disney Hall has a gorgeous sound, which reflects evenly from its multiple surfaces. Every seat is a good one
During the first movement of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, I noticed something drastically wrong with the balance. The orchestra overpowered the piano. This was not the fault of the exquisite orchestra, pianist Alexander Toradze or piano technician Ron Elliot's well-prepared Steinway D. The culprit was custom.
Traditionally, the piano lid opens toward the audience seated in front. But Disney Hall is not traditional. Frank Gehry designed it as a "vineyard-shaped auditorium," a theater in-the-round. Acoustically near perfect, the sound rises and returns evenly, exactly as performed. This superb hall requires no piano lid to direct (misdirect!) sound.
More than 600 seats, including mine, are located behind the piano lid and the orchestra. The lid is superfluous. It compromises the integrity of the performance for nearly a third of the audience.