The cover story of this month's issue of the French magazine Classica lists "The Top Halls for Music" and Wigmore Hall is there with such heady company as Carnegie Hall in New York, Berlin's Philharmonie, and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. It is the only small hall - it seats 545 - among the 21 legendary halls listed.
On September 10, the hall opens its doors for the new season with a special, four-day bouquet of talent. Opening night has Soprano Karita Mattila singing Berg, Brahms, Sibelius and Richard Strauss. The following night mezzo Angelika Kirchschlager, with pianist Julius Drake, appear. Sunday morning the Elias String Quartet performs and in the evening, the Tokyo String Quartet takes the stage. The following day, violinist Alina Ibragimova, with the talented French pianist Cédric Tiberghien, play a l PM program with Kirschlager returning, this time with tenor Ian Bostridge, for a joint recital at 7:30 PM. The Artemis Quartet completes the season launch on Tuesday evening, 14 September.
In addition, the season includes a gala celebration of the opening concerts held May 31 and June 1 of 1901. While the original concerts, featuring pianist Ferrucio Busoni, violinist Eugène Ysaÿe and pianist Vladimir de Pachmann, among others, was at a level difficult to match today, this year's concerts make a serious effort with the Takás Quartet, Stephen Hough, Steven Isserlis, Joshua Bell, Pamela Frank, Tabea Zimmermann and Jeremy Denk.
The hall's unmatched acoustics, Edwardian elegance and sophisticated audiences have always made this a special stop on an artist's schedule and great names were always a part of the history. This season tenor Jonas Kaufmann and mezzo Cecilia Bartoli will appear and it also includes a piano recital by Daniel Barenboim and, later, Martha Argerich playing piano four hands with her ex-husband, Stephen Kovacevich, to celebrate his 70th birthday. Also among the 400 concerts this season is the Artemis Quartet and their cycle of the Beethoven string quartets.
Classica magazine wistfully asked the question: "Is this the hall that Paris is missing?" Parisian halls like the Salle Cortot and the Salle Gaveau come to mind as a possible match to Wigmore in size and acoustics but the element missing in Paris is someone like John Gilhooly, manager of Wigmore Hall for the last 10 years. He has kept the hall at the center of London's musical pulse, supervised the 2004 refurbishment project, introduced a jazz series, established a program to commission new works, set the hall on a firm financial footing and launched the hall's own record label with 30 titles now in the "Wigmore Hall Live" catalogue. With friends like this, Wigmore Hall can look forward to its bicentennial with some assurance.
Full information about the anniversary season is at the website for the hall, www.wigmore-hall.org.uk.