BERLIN - A fire yesterday sent plumes of acrid gray smoke pouring from the roof of the Berlin Philharmonic's landmark home, where musicians and firefighters rushed to save precious instruments.
The blaze broke out beneath the roof of the building over the main concert hall, which seats 2,440 and is famed for its extraordinary acoustics. There were no injuries, and the fire was brought under control after about five hours.
Welding work had been carried out on the building's tin roof earlier in the day, and police were investigating that as a possible cause, police spokeswoman Heike Nagora said.
The building is a landmark in downtown Berlin, where its asymmetrical shape resembling a big-top circus tent juts into the skyline beside the Potsdamer Platz complex.
Firefighters cut open parts of the roof, about 160 feet above the ground, to get at the fire after being called to the scene shortly before 2 p.m., fire officer Karsten Goewecke said. He said the fire broke out in an interior area between the insulated ceiling and the metal skin of the roof.
The fire erupted around the time a lunchtime concert in the ground-floor foyer was letting out and an hour before 700 people were due to start rehearsing Hector Berlioz's
for a series of weekend concerts being directed by Claudio Abbado, the predecessor of the current chief conductor, Sir Simon Rattle.
Goewecke said that about 300 people were in the building but that they were evacuated without any panic.
Musicians, assisted by firefighters, were allowed into the building to remove instruments they had left in their lockers overnight after Monday's rehearsal.
Peter Riegelbauer, an orchestra member, said that about 50 "priceless" instruments were removed and that "we can rule out" the risk of damage to others. Firefighters used foam to minimize damage.