Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Boston's Symphony Hall dates to 1900 when the acoustic masterpiece opened as the first performance venue designed to meet aural standards developed by college physics professor Wallace Sabine. Financed by Boston philanthropist Major Henry Lee Higginson who commissioned the services of McKim, Mead, & White - the heralded New York architectural firm also responsible for the design of Boston Public Library and a number of buildings at Harvard University - Symphony Hall enjoys an international reputation as one of the best musical performance halls in the world.
An amateur musician and Civil War veteran, Higginson founded the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1881. In a 1994 book titled 'Boston Sites and Insights,' author Susan Wilson reports that Higginson began developing plans to build a new home for the BSO when he heard rumors that its existing venue on Hamilton Place was set for demolition. Since the original structure was called the Music Hall, Higginson planned to name the new building Boston Music Hall. One thing led to another. The Music Hall was not razed. Higginson realized naming the new structure Boston Music Hall would likely cause confusion among patrons. He settled on the name Symphony Hall, but only after railings decorated with BMH medallions were installed along the new building's marble staircases.
In addition to the Boston Symphony Orchestra which is in residence each year from October through April, Symphony Hall is also home to the acclaimed Boston Pops. Led from relative obscurity by the incomparable Arthur Fiedler in the 1970s, the Boston Pops - under the subsequent direction of Oscar-winning composer John Williams and now at the hand of their charismatic musical director Keith Lockhart - continue to enjoy widespread popularity. Their annual Fourth of July concert on the Boston Esplanade is broadcast nationwide on the A&E network.
Often described as 'shoebox-shaped,' Symphony Hall is an example of unassuming elegance. Its relatively simple shape contributes to its acoustic excellence by providing space for a 'buffer' of hallways and offices surrounding the interior main hall. Once inside the symphonic hall, concert-goers discover a courtly venue complete with crimson walls, gold leaf, oak, and leather - all used sparingly to avoid compromising the acoustic integrity of the hall. In fact, regular concert-goers have complained (good-naturedly) for years about the hard wooden seats which are covered with only a thin layer of leather.
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