The date is 15 September 1881. Six illustrious Amsterdam citizens come together to breathe life into the ‘Provisional Committee to build a concert hall’. The Park Hall theatre in the Plantage area was about to be demolished, the Felix Meritis building was too small, and Amsterdam’s Crystal Palace was uncomfortable and notorious for its poor acoustics. A few months earlier, the weekly paper De Amsterdammer denounced the sad state of the capital city’s music scene. 'While the leaders of all self-respecting cities abroad have made sure their cities are graced with good concert halls, our government has declared that these ill-fated ‘arts’ are not its responsibility,’ the paper reported.
To determine a suitable location, the committee turns to Pierre Cuypers, the architect of the Rijksmuseum which was being built at that time. He helps negotiate the purchase of a plot of land near the new museum, just outside the city limits, in the middle of the Nieuwer-Amstel fields. On 7 March 1882, plans were completed for a public limited company with a capital sum of 400,000 guilders, for which shares could be purchased for 1000 guilders. On 8 July 1882, the company N.V. Het Concertgebouw was officially founded, even though only 250,000 guilders in shares had been sold.
Dolf van Gendt
There was no requirement for a particular building style, as long as the end result would fit on an area of 130 x 55 metres, be constructed for a budget of 300,000 guilders, and provide space for around 2000 concertgoers. After some bickering, a design was chosen – albeit a scaled-down version – from Amsterdam’s most frequently patronised architect, Adolf Leonard (Dolf) van Gendt, the creator of many famous buildings, including the Hollandsche Manege, Frascati, De IJsbreker and the Gallery of the Crystal Palace.
The Concertgebouw was completed in late 1886. However, due to a lack of confidence on the part of the funders as well as the necessary difficulties with the municipality of Nieuwer-Amstel (for example, with respect to filling in a small canal, paving the access roads and installing street lights), the grand opening of the long-awaited building was only celebrated on Wednesday 11 April 1888.