Friday, April 28, 2006

Porto, Day 2.

Strode over to the Stock Exchange, a nice palace we had missed yesterday since it was closed. The highlights of the visit included the General Assembly room, the walls and ceilings of which were painted in trompe l'oeil to resemble oak wood matching the furniture good enough to fool the closest inspection.

The other interesting feature of the Palacio da Bolsa was the Arabian Room, decorated in a rather baroque-like way with arabesques in stucco all over the walls, columns, and ceilings and hand painted on the windows in a noisy attack on the eyes enough to send anyone reeling. This room was designed and built by Portuguese artists during a time when the whole Arabian theme was seen as exotic and fashionable, but I very much doubt these guys had ever set foot in an Islamic country. At least, the room looked nothing at all like the Medersas and Palaces it was supposed to draw inspiration from that I've ever seen. Yikes, what a mess. {shrug}. However, it the room does inspire the sense of opulence, which I believe was the intended effect, however clumsily (in my opinion) achieved.

Anyway, another salient characteristic of the room was its supposedly "near perfect" and "wonderful" acoustics, ideal for concert hosting. Of course upon hearing this from the lips of the guide and having them echo noticeably from where I was standing nearby (remarkable acoustics, certainly, but not good for concert hearing!), I immediately walked away from the group to the extreme corner of the room where the echo was eliminated, and the difference in acoustic quality was striking. Again, not the ideal situation for a concert hall, if what you hear depends a lot on where you're sitting! So I started to become rather skeptical, and wondered if piano recitals would sound as overornate as the overwhelming decor of the room in question, what with the rather "wet" sound of the room, and the rather long sound permanence/reverb time/low absorbtion even at the far end away from the speaking guide, and decided it may perhaps not be too bad for some chamber works if the hall was full, but as it was, hearing the guide, it was not "near perfect" to me at all, but very far from it.

A little bit of reassurance ensued, when the guide mentioned in passing, at my remark that I thought the reverb time was rather longish for such a small room, perhaps around 1.8 secs or so was my guess, and whether she knew the exact number (she didn't, which was unfortunate, because I wanted to see how good my guess had been), that when the piano concerts took place, the piano was placed in the middle of the room, and the people took seats around it.

Aaaah, then. That makes a huge difference. With people surrounding, full hall, reverb time goes down, and with the piano in the middle, the listeners get more equal effects in terms of echo so that seating arrangement only matters, one hopes, in relation to the seating position with respect to the piano (i.e. near the sounding board or behind the pianist, as opposed to near the stage vs. far from the stage in a traditional concert hall). Would've been interesting, to catch a performance, but the next one is not until May 6th, which is a pity, as I'm hoping to be somewhere in Spain, by then.

Still, a very capricious and bizarre room, for my taste. There sure are some rather strange things to be found here in Portugal.


Anonymous said...

Elisa, bellissima l'espressione "trompe l'oïl": inganna l'occhio. Mi ha gradevolmente sorpreso il tuo francese. Complimenti.

Elisa said...

Ah, Vater, you ain't seen nothing yet!! ;P