Hamburg is a city under the spell of music. From the incredibly designed Elbphilharmonie concert hall on the water to the sweaty caves of the Golden Pudel Club, this small German city is one of sonic variation.
From the moment you step onto the runway at Hamburg’s tiny airport and make your way through it’s winding streets, you realize exactly how much contrast exists in this city. Opulent, old Dutch-style houses rub comfortably against stained, graffiti-covered doorways and shop fronts. Everything appears to be in its wonky place, like a thrift shop window with objects old and new.
If you’re out on the water or in the harbour area, it’s difficult to miss the stately spire of St Michael’s Church. Atop a grand staircase, it stands proudly and is famous for being where the then eighteen-year-old George Friedric Handel cut his teeth. Its interior is grand and appears to mish-mash various catholic and German protestant styles, with gold trimmings along white-washed walls. At 12 o’clock each day, a large audience is treated to a recital from two of the five giant organs lining the upper walls of the main hall. Each organ ranges in style and tone, bringing it’s own character and personality to the daily sonic bath at St Michael’s.
Hamburg is an incredibly compact city and has musical history packed into every nook and cranny. The Composer’s Quarter features a cute row of museums that neatly describe the city’s legendary composers. Brahms, Telemann and Mahler all lived, worked, and, in Brahms case, was born and later died in Hamburg. Anyone looking to brush up on their classical music knowledge should start here, at the origin of his city fascinating musical journey.
A short bike ride down the lane, our sagely guide Tomas points out the Laeiszhalle concert hall, the prim and proper little sister of the striking and modern Elbphilharmonie. Originally opened in 1908, the building’s enormous corridors and stately inner halls seat anywhere from 150-2000 patrons, and now features opera, theatre and ballet from all over the world.
Next, in stark contrast, standing unashamedly on a crowded street is the Gängeviertel, an incredible co-operative project that saved the existing factory/residential complex from demolition in 2009. The space now operates as an arts and culture hub that features everything from the punk La Fete Surprise live music event, all the way up to the incredibly sweet Faltenrock meetings, which teach over-sixties how to swing dance. Like its roster of events, the façade of the building is ever-changing, with community gardens and performances spaces dotted around Gängeviertel’s perimeter.
Last but not least. a mere stone’s throw away from this hub of grassroots culture is the Staatsoper. This lively opera venue continually hosts internationally renown companies and has been going strong since 1678. Much like the Laeiszhalle it boasts lavish velvet interiors and attracts visitors from far and wide with its varied programme.