thumb The Sofiensaal was a concert hall and recording venue in Vienna, Austria. It was situated on Marxergasse, in the city's third district of Landstraße. It burned down on 16 August 2001, although the facade of the building is still intact.
Creation and initial use
The building was completed in 1826, designed by the architects August Sicard and Eduard van der Nüll. It was named after Princess Sophie of Bavaria, the mother of Emperor Franz Josef I. It was originally used as a steam bath and known as the Sofienbad. Between 1845 and 1849, it was converted into a dance hall and renamed the Sofiensaal. Johann Strauss I performed there regularly and conducted at the opening ball of the house in 1848. Many of the Strauss family's waltzes were first performed there.<ref name="opera-l">"Death of a princess". Gramophone Online, August 2001.</ref>
Use as a recording venue
The building's large, vaulted ceiling, and the pool beneath the floor, gave the hall excellent acoustic properties. For this reason, Decca Records adopted the building as its principal European recording venue from 1950, mono recording and 1955, stereo recording (Le nozze di Figaro conducted by Erich Kleiber, Die Zauberflöte conducted by Karl Böhm and other Mozart operas) to the mid-1980s. The senior producer of classical recordings for the company for much of this time was John Culshaw, who revolutionised the recording of classical music, particularly opera with the Decca tree. Notable recordings made at the Sofiensaal during this period included the first complete studio recording of Wagner's Ring Cycle, conducted by Georg Solti.
Later years and destruction
In later years the Sofiensaal fell into disuse as a recording studio and was used for parties and discos. The last recording made there, in July 2001, was of Arcadi Volodos playing solo piano works by Franz Schubert.
In May 2001, the building's owners announced that it would be used as a conference centre. However, it was destroyed by fire on 16 August 2001, due to careless routine maintenance work. The fire burned for more than eight hours and completely destroyed the main ballroom, although the facade and walls of the building survived. Some of the decorative stucco work on the walls survived the fire, as did the adjacent Blauer Salon, a small side venue.<ref name="opera-l"/> There were no reported deaths or injuries.
In January 2006, it was announced that the Sofiensaal is to be redeveloped and converted into apartments.