Photo: Flickr / Paulo Valdivieso

Among the variety of historical monuments and beautiful buildings in Barcelona, ​​one definitely attracts attention and that is the concert hall "The Palau de la Música Catalana". Designed and built between 1905 and 1908 by Lluís Domènech i Montaner for one of the most famous amateur groups with over 125 years of history - "L'Orfeó Català" (Catalan Orpheus). The group, founded in 1891, quickly gained strength and by 1905 had become a leading force in the Catalan cultural movement, fighting for freedom and privileges for the unjust Catalans, which went down in history as the "Catalan rebirth".


The construction of the building was done mainly by middle-class private funds, but wealthy industrialists of that time were involved with substantial sums. The beautiful building won the Barcelona City Council's "Best Building in the Country" award in 1909. It has to be many years before it has been thoroughly renovated and repaired under the guidance of architects Oscar Tusquets Blanca and Carlos Diaz (Carlos Diaz) in 1982 - 1989


In 1997, the building was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, more than half a million people attend music performances performed at the Music Hall, ranging from symphonic and chamber music to jazz and canco (a type of Catalan song). The palace is located on the corner of the narrow street "Carrer Palau la Musica" and "Carrer de Sant Pere Mes Alt", in the old part of Barcelona known as "Casc Antic". The design is characteristic of Catalan modernism, with curved lines of respect and based on dynamic shapes and rich floral ornaments.


Unlike many other modern-style buildings, the Palace's design is rational. Special attention has been paid to functionality and the most up-to-date materials and technologies used (eg steel framing) have been used. The most accurate description was given by Bunton, who describes the architecture of Barcelona as "a peculiar rebellion of ornaments, without a clear logic or sense of control." This is the first time the technique for creating a suspended facade is applied.

photo: Flickr / Carlos Rivera

Exterior facade


The Barcelona Chamber of Music

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The architect has given his masters freedom - each of them to put in a different style and technique, reflecting the irreconcilable Catalan spirit and freedom. This is how a cultural masterpiece was created, with an inimitable style that shapes the unique look of today's "Palace of Music". The facade interweaves many styles of architecture, but the blend of traditional Spanish and Arabic architecture is most evident. The columns supporting the balcony on the second floor of the main facade are decorated with unique multicolored glass pieces - tiles with floral motifs and illuminated by a candlestick that shines at night like a Catalan spirit. Above the columns are busts of famous composers of the 16 century - Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Johann Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven.


The front of the building is under the "watchful eye" of Louis Brie's large allegorical mosaic depicting members of L'Orfeó Català. Inside, the lobby ceiling is decorated with glazed ceramic cornices arranged in a star shape. From the lobby begins a beautiful marble staircase leading visitors to the second floor, called "Lluis Millet", named after one of the founders of "L'Orfeó Català". The "Palace of Music" is divided into two parts - a concert hall ("Lluis Millet") and a chamber music chamber ("Petit Palau").


The "Petit Palau" was built in 2004 and has 538 seats, but unlike its larger sibling, it does not have a glamorous appearance. It has been specially designed for chamber music concerts, with special attention paid to the acoustics of the room, which is different according to the type of music, and is equipped with the latest audio-visual technologies.


The Lluis Millet Concert Hall seats 2200 people and is the only concert hall in Europe that is naturally lit. The walls on both sides are composed of majestic arches, and above the heads of visitors rises a huge stained glass window designed by Anthony Rigalt. The central element is an inverted dome, painted in gold and blue shades, symbolizing the Sun and the Sky. The decoration is a masterpiece of creativity and imagination, but all this is carefully considered, with the emphasis on the presentation of music.

photo: Alessandro Grussu

Lluis Millet Concert Hall


Above the performers, on either side of them hang the bust of Anselm Claude, a famous conductor who helped revive the Catalan folk songs. Below it is a statue of girls singing the Catalan song "Les Flors de Maig" ("Flowers in May"). The space is surrounded by a wall depicting 18 sculptures of ancient Greek goddesses (though only 9 is the true muse in ancient Greek mythology), each holding a different musical instrument. In the middle between the two groups is the coat of arms of Catalonia. The muse on the right side of the Catalan coat of arms is the only one whose dress depicts the coat of arms of Austria and the double-headed eagle of the Habsburg dynasty. The upper part of the balcony depicts the winged Pegasus horse, a symbol of the imagination that, in Greek mythology, takes the three muses to their father Zeus in Mount Olympus.


This is where the idea for L'Orfeó Català was born. It coincided with the opening of the World's Fair in Barcelona in 1888. It was the patron and industrialist Anthony Capmani who supported the creation of such a choir, in an attempt to create a sense of Catalanism in Catalans and to support their aesthetic and cultural movement for style and uniqueness. Here, Luis Millet and Amadeu Vives nurtured Catalan honor and collaborated with musicians such as Eric Granado, Jose Lapeira and others, who were the "backbone" of "L'Orfeó Català" in the early years.


The first public concert of "L'Orfeó Català" was in 1892 and was organized by Anthony Nicolaou, when the members were only 65 people, and in 1893 there were already over 79. Joan Millet, brother of Luis Millet, famous a trader is elected chairman of the organization. He has organizational qualities and contributes positively to the renewal of the group, taking advantage of his contacts with influential people from the Catalan economic and cultural life in the country and abroad.


The first unofficial audition (they didn't even have an official name back then) was on 5 April 1892. Then at the invitation of Maestro Antoni Nicolaou over 30 people came to the audition and two pieces had to be played - from a composition by Wagner and " Funeral march "by Hector de Berlioz. The majority were craftsmen and music lovers, with a Catalan identity.


Next year - 19 October 1892 is the first concert with the recently created Catalan Concert Society. Enrique Granado himself performed the two fragments that had previously been played at the audition, which led to enthusiasm in Catalan society. The band thus began with an entirely aesthetic line subordinated to Wagner's music. Wagnerism begins. New members are also joining - such as Felipe Pendrel and Claudius Martinez Ginger. The press wrote incredibly good reviews and did not cease to praise the qualities of the group. They performed an incredible concert of such a difficult work that required the musician to have a "hearing" and the audience was ecstatic.


One year later - 1893, the band again performed with a concert featuring works by Mozart, Nels Gates and Mendelssohn.
But the year proved to be difficult because a bomb exploded at the Liceu Theater. The public is afraid to attend cultural events, and at the same time, the severe economic crisis is affecting the country's cultural identity. Many sponsors end their collaboration with the group. The musicians try to support the spirit in the country and despite the problems, during the period 1893 - 1894, they perform on 1 - 2 performances per month.


This forced Miletus to seek financial support from the rich society of Barcelona. He made several trips to Nice in 1897 and southern France in 1901, personally giving the group money to continue working. L'Orfeó Català is no longer just a gathering of zealous Catalans and friends, but a professional group with a hierarchy and vision for the long term. On February 18, 1901, the group participated for the first time in a literary evening held at the Lliga de Catalunya. On February 22, 1901, a second performance took place, again in the Lliga de Catalunya, and these events were widely covered in the press, which praised Luis Millet for his outstanding work.


The crisis seems to have been overcome even in 1895, when the band participated in a concert dedicated to the composer Edward Grieg, marking the beginning of a very promising future, not only for the group, but also for the public, artistic and institutional life in the country. This is also the end of work for the Amadeu Vives band, which pioneered Zarzuela, a musical-dramatic genre close to operetta.


Initially, L'Orfeó Català was only available to men. In 1896, a women's choir and school for children were founded under the direction of Emerencia Wehrle and maestro Joseph Lapeyra - two-hour classes were free. From then on, the long struggle for women's equality began here, as well as in other spheres of society and the arts.


On 14 March 1896 is the band's first concert, in collaboration with renowned pianist Enrique Granados, in gratitude to the director and sponsors who contributed to this project. So gradually the group began to have sufficient economic resources. Thanks to the wide support of the Catalan community, they received their own flag, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Galisa and their own anthem, "The Song of Senera". Some of the best soloists in the world have been guests at this chamber of art and music, such as Montserrat Cabaye, Svetoslav Richter, Vladimir Eshkenazi, Elizabeth Schwartzkopf and other notable names in classical music.


In the 60 years of the last century, it was here that, for the first time, the Catalans introduced their popular genre, known as "kango," at the Music Hall. From this scene, many Catalan singers make their first steps to fame - such as Ramon Pelegero Sanchis, who is considered one of the first performers to perform this style and one of the most famous musicians singing in this dialect.

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