Prague’s most prestigious concert hall, the Rudolfinum, celebrates an important anniversary on Wednesday. One hundred and forty-five years ago, on June 23, 1876, the foundation stone of the building, which has become one of the country’s most important cultural landmarks, was laid.
The neo-Renaissance building of the Rudolfinum, one of the oldest concert halls in Europe, was originally designed as a multi-purpose building dedicated to music and visual arts. Its construction was initiated by the savings bank Böhmische Sparkasse, the oldest financial institution in Bohemia.
Lukáš Duchek, head of the investment and administration department of the Rudolfinum, explains how it came to be built:
“In the 1870s, the place called Rejdiště, with its chemical plants and timber warehouses, was located on the outskirts of the Old Town. Since the 1870s, urban plans proposing changes to the area started to emerge. As the first building in the area, Rudolfinum set the direction for its future development.
“The place gradually turned into an island of art and education. It accommodated the buildings of the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Charles University’s philosophical and law faculties and the Academic Gymnasium, today the seat of the Prague Conservatory, as well as the building of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design.”
The authors of Rudolfinum, selected in an international competition, were two very important architects from Prague, Josef Zítek and Josef Schulz, who were also responsible for many other important buildings in Prague, including the National Theatre.
In December 1874 they set out on a working trip to Germany, France, Belgium and the United Kingdom to see famous concert halls and galleries and meet some of the leading European architects and other experts. Lukáš Duchek again:
“Their main advisor over acoustics was the German composer Richard Wagner, although, as you can read in the book, his advice wasn’t always the best.
“Construction of the Rudolfinum concert hall began in June 1876 but it was delayed from the start due to the rising level of the Vltava River.
“In the end, the construction process took eight years instead of the planned four and the final budget increased from 500,000 to two million Guldens. The building was approved in 1884.”
The Rudofinum, named after the Austrian crown prince Rudolf, was ceremoniously opened to the public on February 7, 1885.
The building consists of two interconnected parts. One is the famous Dvořák Concert Hall, while the rear part of the building, is today home to one of Prague’s leading art galleries, the Rudolfinum Gallery.
Since 1896, the building has been used as the seat of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, which first performed here under the baton of Antonín Dvořák.
After the establishment of independent Czechoslovakia, Rudolfinum served as the National Assembly building. After the war, it has returned to its former purpose and since 1946, it has regularly hosted the prestigious Prague Spring international music festival.