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Concert Venues :: Kleinhans Music Hall


Now Known As
Date Opened 1940
Venue Capacity 1,800
Venue URL
Venue Address 71 Symphony Circle
Buffalo, NY 14201

Venue Information

Named by Edward Kleinhans as a memorial to his wife, Mary Seaton Kleinhans, and his mother, Mary Livingston Kleinhans, the music hall was one of the first important American commissions on which Eliel Saarinen and his son Eero collaborated It was also one of the few such buildings erected during the Depression years. The project also received funds from the Works Progress Administration.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has used the hall as its home since Kleinhans first opened.

The music hall was built between 1938-1940 and designed by the Finnish-American father-and-son team of Eliel and Eero Saarinen in the International style.

The predominant lines of the music hall both outside and inside are smoothly curvilinear and sweeping, suggesting not only the shape of a stringed musical instrument but the shape of music itself in its motion and flow. The design resembles the shape of a violin or cello with the two lobes of the instrument housing the larger and the smaller concert auditoriums in the building.

Thus, the shape of the structure suggests its function. A certain amount of contemporary architecture follows this practice Another example from Eero Saarinens oeuvre is the TWA Building(1962) at Kennedy Airport, which resembles a birds spreading wings.

The curving shapes of the exterior, which faithfully reflect interior volumes, look forward to Eeros later architecture, while the clean lines and careful craftsmanship, evident on the interior, hark back to the elder Saarinens devotion to Arts and Crafts ideals.

The east end facing Symphony Circle is mirrored in reflecting pools.

Inside the music hall, the orphic form of the flaring, wood-paneled auditorium gives almost literal embodiment to Schellings contention that architecture is frozen music. Although acoustically superb, the main performance hall is almost austerely plain, perhaps to keep the audience from being diverted from the music.

The Saarinens concert hall quickly gained renown for its acoustical excellence and became a place of pilgrimage for architects and acoustical engineers from all over the world. Many post-World War II concert halls show its influence, notably, Festival Hall in London (1951).

Kleinhans Music Hall is located on what is now known as Symphony Circle, but originally named The Circle by Buffalo park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1868.

From the earliest days of the Circle this site was home to a greenhouse and some dwellings of modest size until the early 1890s. At that time, Truman Avery purchased all the grounds bordering this quadrant (3.5 acres) and built a palatial mansion.

In 1938, when the City of Buffalo was searching for a site for the new music hall to be erected as a memorial to retailer Edward L. Kleinhans mother and wife, heirs to the estate of Mrs. Truman Avery offered the mansion to the City for a nominal sum.

The Circle was renamed Symphony Circle in 1958 because of its association with Kleinhans Music Hall and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

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