Palace of the Music of Catalan A quick ten-minute walk from my hotel brought me to the doors of the Palau de la Música Catalana where I waited for my guided tour to start. My guidebook said that the Palau is the foremost Modernisme masterpiece by an architect other than Antonin Gaudí. There are two ways to see the interior of the building: 1) go to a concert, or 2) take the daily tour. I opted for the tour this visit and bought my ticket online wanting to ensure that I was able to have an English-speaking guide (although I really could have purchased it at the ticket booth – they seemed to be taking all comers). I took some photos of the colorful and otherworldly exterior before finding my way to the lobby for my 3:00PM tour. There’s a nice bar where you can buy a drink or a snack and sit either indoors or out. This was my first-ever exposure to the Catalan Modernisme movement (or Art Nouveau Catalan). (Well, maybe we talked about it in Art History in college but we must have just brushed over it because I remember nothing.) The first part of the tour was a 14-minute video in a small amphitheater which we were told is placed right underneath the stage and is where the choir practices. I wish I could show you that informative and inspiring video! The cinematography was beautiful and the joy of the performers who were interviewed was palpable! The best artists of the 20th century have performed here including Sergueï Prokofiev (composer and pianist), Pablo Casals (cello), Leonard Bernstein (composer and pianist), the London Symphony, Zubin Mehta (conductor), Herbie Hancock, Gilberto Gil, and many others who love the beauty of the place and its acoustic excellence. The concert hall embraces all kinds of music, except for opera. (There is already an opera hall in Barcelona and the stage at the Palau is too small for the “bigness” of that type of musical production.)
The Palau de la Música Catalana was built between 1905 and 1908 by the architect Lluis Domènech i Montaner, a contemporary of Antonin Gaudí who was also a politician and writer. This, his masterpiece, is a stunning and intricate work of art. It is as if the main concert hall were made of precious jewels. Domènech i Montaner wanted it to be perceived as a “box of light” and as a “garden with no night”. His focus – the focus of Modernisme – is on light, nature, and God. He drew every sculpture himself. Prominent in many of the windows of the main concert hall is the red cross, the symbol of St. George, of dragon-slaying fame, who is the patron saint of Barcelona. All designs were meant to be harmonious and reminiscent of nature. There are lights which have been placed on a slant to represent flowers turning toward the sun. There is sculptural flora everywhere. The message and mission of the Palau is that “music is universal.” On the walls of the stage there are sculptures of muses playing different instruments from around the world symbolizing the inclusiveness and universality of music.
The Palau started as a performance hall for the Orfeo Choir and still houses a choir school. There is a massive pipe organ brought here from Germany in 1908. It has 3372 pipes and a few years back was in serious need of refurbishment. To pay for the project, the Palau created an “Adopt a Pipe” program to bring in funds! And, as we toured the balcony, we were treated to a mini organ concert! We heard firsthand what an impressive set of pipes the Palau has!
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