In Andermatt, the sound of music soars beautifully from a remarkable newly opened concert hall. Laura Archer discovers how the state-of-the-art venue is helping to mark the Alpine town out as a vibrant year-round cultural destination as well as a luxury skiing resort
Back when he was a student in Berlin, Samih Sawiris, the chairman of Andermatt Swiss Alps, would do anything to get his hands on tickets to the Philharmonie. He often struck lucky, recalling ending up attending “hundreds” of concerts conducted by the legendary Herbert von Karajan. This summer, decades later, the Berlin Philharmonic inaugurated Sawiris’ state-of-the-art Andermatt Concert Hall with a spectacular performance of Mozart and Shostakovich, marking the start of a world-class programme unrivalled in the Alps. For the property developer, whose passion for classical music is evangelical and who first conceived of the project many years ago, it was a particular joy. When the first notes of Mozart’s Symphony No.34 swirled around the light-filled hall, with forested mountains almost poking through the windows, Sawiris tells LUX, “It was a dream come true. Like many of my dreams, this one entailed long and hard work, but it doubled the pleasure to see the Berlin Philharmonic finally here.”
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While in the past Andermatt has struggled to escape from the shadows of its glitzier Alpine cousins – Gstaad and St. Moritz among them – it is now emerging as a glamorous destination in its own right, thanks to an impressive investment programme designed to transform the village into a year-round destination where superb skiing is just one of the many strings in its bow. At the heart of this development is the 650-seat Andermatt Concert Hall, masterminded by London-based Studio Seilern Architects.
Founder-director Christina Seilern lived in Switzerland until she was 18 and sees the place as something of a second home. This project proved irresistible, giving her a chance to showcase her architectural prowess within an environment she loves. “It brought me back to my roots,” she says. “Given that I grew up in the mountains, it felt appropriate to connect the dramatic landscape to the music within the hall.”
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She has done so in spectacular style, working with an existing underground concrete bunker originally intended to be a conference venue and literally raising the roof, adding a glass façade to create a soaring atrium that floods the concert space below with daylight and opens it up to stunning mountain views. In winter, audiences might find themselves listening to music while watching snow swirl outside, while in summer the green alpine pastures provide a similarly inspiring backdrop. The hall’s bijou size, with incredible acoustics courtesy of Kahle Acoustics and Ducks Scéno (the teams behind the Philharmonie de Paris) creates a sensory experience like no other in the Alps. “It felt like having the orchestra in my living room,” says Seilern of the opening performance. “The intimacy between orchestra and audience was palpable. It was completely electrifying.”
At street level, the clever design means passers-by can also see into the concert hall and enjoy the spectacle, further cementing Sawiris’ vision that classical music is for everyone.
The Andermatt Autumn Music Festival, a satellite of the Lucerne Festival, starts on 24 October 2019 andermatt-swissalps.ch
Stay in style
With so much to see and do in Andermatt, you’ll want to return time and again. And after a long day on the slopes, on the golf course, or hiking, cycling or touring, it’s nice to relax in the comfort of your own home. Gotthard Lofts, a new development of 10 spacious loft-style apartments on the sixth floor of the Radisson Blu hotel, offers your own private space with all the benefits of the hotel’s facilities, including private access to the 25-metre panoramic pool, spa and the concert hall itself. Inside, large balconies make the most of the surrounding scenery, while light woods and neutral tones evoke a modern Alpine spirit. Cook for family and friends one night; dine in the hotel restaurant the next – the flexibility and choice are what make Gotthard Lofts so appealing. Buyers receive a special exception from stringent Swiss property laws about foreign ownership, and receive a host of benefits including a three- year ski pass and the option to rent it out when you’re not there. It’s the smart way to make the most of your precious holiday time.
From CHF 990,000. For more information visit: gotthard-residences.ch