Wigmore Hall is a leading international recital venue that specialises in hosting performances of chamber music and is best known for classical recitals of piano, song and instrumental music. It is located at 36 Wigmore Street, London, UK and was built to provide London with a venue that was both grandly impressive yet intimate enough for recitals of chamber music. With near perfect acoustics, the Hall became quickly celebrated across Europe, acquiring almost legendary attraction for the greatest artists of the 20th century. Today the Hall promotes some 400 concerts a year and broadcasts a weekly concert on BBC Radio 3 attracting an audience of several hundred thousand listeners as well as an extensive worldwide internet audience. The Hall also promotes an extensive education programme throughout London and beyond.
Originally named the Bechstein Hall, it was built between 1899 and 1901 by C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik, the German piano manufacturer whose showroom was next door. The hall was designed by Thomas Edward Collcutt, who also designed the Savoy Hotel on The Strand. Similar concert halls were also built by Bechstein in Saint Petersburg and Paris.
The building follows the Renaissance style, using alabaster and marble walls to furnish a flat, rectangular hall with a small raised stage area complete with a cupola depicting the Soul of Music above. The hall is considered to have one of the best acoustics for classical music in Europe. It was refurbished in 2004 and was widely praised for being completed on time and on budget. The Hall's current capacity including stalls and balcony is 545 seats. In 2005, the Wigmore Hall Trust purchased a long lease of 300 years for £3.1m.
The "Bechstein Hall" opened on 31 May 1901 with a concert featuring the virtuoso pianist and composer Ferruccio Busoni and violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. During its early period, the Hall attracted great artists like Artur Schnabel, Pablo Sarasate, Percy Grainger, Myra Hess, Arthur Rubinstein, Camille Saint-Saëns and Max Reger.
Because of its German ownership, the hall was seized as enemy property during World War I. The hall with over 130 pianos was sold at an auction to Debenhams for a fraction of its value and was re-opened as Wigmore Hall in 1917. Many great artists including Sviatoslav Richter, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Victoria de los Ángeles, Sergey Prokofiev, Shura Cherkassky, Paul Hindemith, Andrés Segovia, Benjamin Britten and Francis Poulenc have performed there. Wigmore Hall has had an important relationship with living composers throughout its history. On 31 August 2007 a new commissioning scheme for modern composers was announced by the Hall's Director.
The Wigmore Hall's current director is Limerick born John Gilhooly, a classical singer. He joined the Wigmore Hall as CEO in 2000 and became Artistic Director in addition in 2005 at the age of 32. His predecessor as Artistic Director was Paul Kildea. William Lyne served as director from 1966 to 2003. Frequent current performers at the Hall include Andras Schiff, Joshua Bell, Maxim Vengerov, Thomas Quasthoff, Ian Bostridge, Susan Graham, Angela Hewitt, Mark Padmore, Steven Isserlis, Sir Thomas Allen, Matthias Goerne, Dame Felicity Lott, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Simon Keenlyside, Anne Sofie von Otter, Wolfgang Holzmair, Soile Isokoski, the Nash Ensemble, The King's Consort, the Beaux Arts and Florestan Trios and the Emerson, Endellion, Artemis, Hagen, Jerusalem and Zehetmair Quartets. The Hall's Composer in Residence from 2009 will be Luke Bedford.
The Wigmore Hall also publishes on its own record label Wigmore Hall Live recordings of concerts by prominent artists. The label recently entered the classical charts with a recital by the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, which has also been nominated for a Gramophone Award.
The Hall also has a programme of educational events, including a series of concerts for under-5s called "Chamber Tots", and a number of concerts for schools.