BERLIN - Berlin Philharmonic fans snapped up tickets to an open-air concert yesterday that was moved at the last minute to the city's outdoor Waldbuehne venue after a fire destroyed the roof of the orchestra's home last week.

The orchestra's regular conductor, Sir Simon Rattle, drew hearty applause when he took to the stage before the concert to thank the audience of several thousand for attending - and the dozens of police and firefighters in the crowd for their efforts to save the building from Tuesday's blaze.

"You did so much for us. Without you, we would no longer have a philharmonic" building, he said.

Pamela Rosenberg, the Philharmonic's general manager, said Claudio Abbado - the orchestra's former conductor who had returned for a guest performance - had not been pleased with having to consolidate the three sold-out performances of Hector Berlioz's

Te Deum

and Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto into one concert at the Waldbuehne.

But solo pianist Maurizio Pollini was quoted by the Berliner Morgenpost as saying that both he and Abbado felt it was important not to cancel the performance.

"That wouldn't be my style," Pollini was quoted as saying in yesterday's newspaper. "In an emergency situation like this, we all have to stick together and make the best out of it."

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire. Welders had been working on the metal roof of the building before the blaze broke out.

Firefighters worked overnight to extinguish the blaze and had to remove about one-quarter of the roof's metal cladding. Although the main concert hall sustained only slight water damage, the building will remain closed until at least June 2.

In the meantime, the orchestra has been forced to seek new venues for previously scheduled concerts, and the Waldbuehne, which can hold 12,000 people, was swiftly organized for this weekend.

The families of firefighters and police who responded to the blaze were being offered free tickets in thanks, Rosenberg said. Thousands of extra tickets also went on sale to the public. Three hours after the box office reopened Thursday, 500 tickets had been sold.

The Berlin Philharmonic traditionally ends its season at the Waldbuehne with a performance of best-loved classics - an annual event in the German capital that sells out quickly.

This year's concert, featuring music of Latin American composers and conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, is scheduled for June 15 and will not be affected by the fire.