The spirit of free thinking makes beautiful music

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A new concert hall in Rezekne, Latvia is remarkable for a number of reasons. While many in the West, and even those closer to the region may have never heard of Rezekne, it is the place where one hundred years ago the foundation of an independent Latvian state was first conceived. Hard to the eastern border of Latvia, with Russia and Belarus close by, the Latgale community as they are known, are nothing if not free thinking. That’s possibly one reason why Rezekne is home to the first modern, purpose built, concert hall and arts centre in Latvia, before even the capital city Riga. As one local journalist wryly reported at the opening gala, “This is a characteristic Riga shares with Paris.” Touché.

The arts centre, known as Gors (which means ‘spirit’ in English and also by the more prosaic ‘Embassy of Latgale’), has two performance halls. One a small recital room that seats two hundred and fifty, while the main concert hall seats a thousand, but can be reconfigured for standing, raising capacity to two and a half thousand. With such startling variation in audience sizes the ambition of the stated multifunctionality becomes all too apparent; free thinking indeed.

Lead construction company Arcers, led by project manager Uldis Dundurs, called upon the services of Latvian consultancy SGS Sistemas Ltd to manage the technology needs of a modern concert hall. “The acoustic solution presented by Akustion of Sweden was particularly challenging,” said Dundurs, “nothing of this kind had ever been built in Latvia before.” SGS’s MD Normunds Eilands embraced the challenge, “Akustion have done a magnificent job, the room flatters the rudiments of orchestral performance beautifully, but at more than two seconds the reverberation presents real problems for sound reinforcement.”

Eilands contacted two domestic sound reinforcement specialists to tender for the project, Riga based Universal Baltic Sound (UBS) winning with a proposal based upon the d&b audiotechnik V-Series line array. “The concert hall is wholly funded by the Rezekne city council,” said UBS’s Director, Edmunds Zazerkis. “A total budget of 12.8 million Latvian Lats is realistic, but that didn’t mean they could be profligate with the audio spend. A left/right system of V-Series loudspeakers, with the d&b 10S for fill duties, made for a very affordable package. More importantly, the precise constant directivity of the V-Series, with the V-SUBs flown above the main line array, gave us absolute pattern control down into the lower frequencies. Yes the exquisite acoustics of Akustion can be adjusted down to a reverb of one and a half seconds but that does mean the longer wavelengths still need careful management; but actually for frequencies of 100 Hz and above the sound is open, transparent and completely unfiltered.”

Zazerkis still thinks luck had much to do with it, but Gors Concert Hall Director, Diāna Zirnina disagrees, “All the contractors have done great work, especially SGS with the sound and lighting, and have made us very proud that we can achieve such things in Latvia. The contemporary concerts we have staged here using the d&b system, even ones where we place modern pop vocalists in front of our orchestra, have proved a great success.”

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