Early plans to extend Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall to include a second, smaller venue have been mooted today in the Liverpool Echo. Liverpool Council has, according to the paper, been shown plans for a smaller venue to be used as a ‘flexible space’, perhaps for rehearsal and smaller, chamber concerts.
At the same time, the hall’s public spaces, which chief executive Michael Eakin has described as ‘cramped’, are expected to be improved to allow better access to the bars. The total cost is expected to be in the region of £40m.
The plans, however, are by no means set in stone, and a complete shift of location has not been ruled out. But city officials seem to be in agreement that the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO), which resides at the hall, needs better facilities to allow it to continue to develop with the speed it has since its conductor Vasily Petrenko was appointed in 2005.
Petrenko has been credited with revitalising the orchestra’s fortunes. The RLPO played a central role in Liverpool’s year in 2008 as European Capital of Culture, and recent recordings on the Avie and Naxos record labels have been met with almost universal praise.
Only last week, the orchestra announced it was partnering with Sky Arts to broadcast its two-year long Mahler Edition series of concerts on satellite television.
Last year Petrenko’s contract was renewed until 2015, an announcement that was reportedly greeted in the Philharmonic Hall with a standing ovation. ‘[Vasily Petrenko] is like the Fernando Torres [Liverpool football team’s centre forward] of the orchestral world,’ said Labour councillor Steve Rotheram. Building a new extension would, he went on, be ‘fantastic for the Philharmonic’.
‘This is early stages,’ warned Michael Eakin, however, but he added: ‘we are doing remarkable business at the moment. But there’s a need and opportunity over the coming years to invest seriously.’