Moving away from museums to the southern end of Museumplein, the Concertgebouw has the reputation of being acoustically among the world’s finest concert halls, as well as one of the most beautiful. Designed by A.L. van Gendt and opened in 1888, it is home to the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra).
A golden lyre stands on the roof above the entrance, and the neo-classical colonnade is watched over by grave portrait busts of Beethoven, Sweelinck and Bach. Among the composers who have held court here are Brahms, Stravinsky, Strauss, Mahler, Ravel and Debussy. Famous European and US orchestras have performed here. The Concertgebouw’s programme is not exclusively classical: past performer have included Philip Glass, Wynton Marsalis and an orchestra of 100 gypsy violins.
Under the baton of Riccardo Chailly, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra has earned a reputation for versatility and is considered one of the world’s leading orchestras. There are two performance halls, the stately Grote Zaal (Large Hall), which seats 2.250, and the Kleine Zaal (Little Hall) on the upper level, which accommodates 450 for concerts with solo artists and chamber orchestras. Besides the regular concert schedule, popular Sunday concerts are held each week from 11am. On Wednesday lunchtimes (generally at 12.30pm) there is usually a free half-hour “surprise concert” where visitors get a chance to hear the resident (or guest) orchestra in rehearsal.
The stylish street outside the Concertgebouw is Van Baerlestraat, which runs just a few blocks and leads up to the Vondelpark. It has clothing, music and bookshops, and speciality shops selling perfume, cigars, coffee and language books. At the far end of the street at No. 52 is the Small Talk Café, a popular spot for visitors between museums. Typical Dutch soups are served, which hit the spot on a cold day; in summer you can sit outside. One block further up is Pieter Cornelisz Hooftsraat (invariably shortened locally to “the P.C. Hooft”), considered Amsterdam’s smartest shopping street, sporting designer names like Armani, DKNY and Hugo Boss.