Musical Chairs: The Quest for a City Recital Hall

The story of Sydney’s world-class City Recital Hall is one of political intrigue, crafty planning and brilliant design, according the author of a new book – Musical Chairs: the Quest for a City Recital Hall, by City of Sydney historian Dr Lisa Murray.

“The passionate campaign for a purpose built chamber music venue was led by Sydney’s cultural community and music lovers. Through an architect’s vision and the hard negotiations and planning trade-offs by politicians and a multinational company, their dream became a reality in the magnificent City Recital Hall at Angel Place in 1999,” Dr Murray said.

From the original battle for a recital hall in Customs House to the completion of the City Recital Hall, Musical Chairs charts the machinations of key players including the classical ensemble music organisation Musica Viva, developer AMP and architect Andrew Andersons.

The book describes a sequence of trials, tribulations, dramas and hiccups. These included the belated need to raise the ceiling towards the end of the design process; the effects on construction of heavy rainfall and industrial disputes; and the hum of the air-conditioning heard on opening night..

Dr Murray explains the historical significance of the Angel Place precinct where the sound of music has been constant since the mid 19th century when a ‘music saloon’ operated and the businesses of piano man William Paling thrived.

She also explains the inspirational input of architect Andrew Andersons; how the charm and mystery of the laneway location was prompted by the Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona, and how the understated richness and a ‘classic contemporary’ look of the auditorium interior was inspired by an 18th century church in Latvia and the Bukamura Orchard Hall in Tokyo, Japan.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP will launch Musical Chairs with Dr Murray at the City Recital Hall at 6pm on Wednesday 31May 2006.

City Recital Hall in Numbers

  • Seats 1,246
  • Reverberation time of 1.8 seconds
  • 45 moulded panels weighting 1000kg line the walls
  • Over 11,500 pieces of Dutch metal leaf were applied over 500 hours
  • Total cost of $190 million
  • Two years construction time (Sept 1997 – Oct 1999)
  • 7,000 square metres in size
  • 10,300 cubic metres in volume

Dr Lisa Murray

Dr Lisa Murray is a City of Sydney historian, author of The Capitol Theatre Restoration (2003), which won a National Trust Heritage Award, and has been widely published in academic journals.

For more information contact Maya Catsanis on 9265 9553 or 0409 045 425.