When in October 1904 the Orfeó Català, a choral society founded in 1891, was in need of a concert hall, modernista architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner to realize this project. At that time he was already a renown figure, not only due to his profession (he had designed the present building of the Fundació Tàpies), but also because of his commitment to Catalanism at the end of the 19th century. In February 1908 the Palau de la Música Catalana opened its doors to the general public.
And this public was overwhelmed by the exterior and interior of the building that has become a landmark of Catalan modernism. Curved lines, fabulous ornamentation and state of the art building materials and techniques, everything made a huge impression. Especially the colourful and richly decorated concert hall itself attracted the attention. Its illumination by natural light during daylight hours is unique, the acoustics for choral music and chamber music are perfect. No wonder the building is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
From the opening till now great names have performed in the Palau. Among them are many Catalan musicians, such as Pau Casals and Frederic Mompou, and foreign ones, like Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky and Arthur Rubinstein.
It also was the venue of various premieres. For example, the famous Concierto de Aranjuez composed in 1940 by Joaquín Rodrigo was performed here for the first time and soprano Victòria dels Àngels made her debut in this concert hall in 1944. And of course the premiere in 1947 of the song cycle La rosa als llavis composed by Eduard Toldrà and sung by Conxita Badia.
During its long history the Palau not only received musical functions. It clearly has a symbolic meaning for Catalonia’s political life. The building had to close during four months in 1925 by order of dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera, and after the Spanish Civil War its name had to be converted into Spanish. In 1940 the Falange, the sole legal party during Franco‘s dictatorship, organized a festival with a performance of the ‘Orfeón que dirige el maestro Millet‘ (Spanish: the Orfeó directed by Master Millet) that had to begin with the fascist hymn Cara al sol. By way of protest Millet directed the song holding his arms firmly alongside his body.
So in all aspects the Palau de la Música Catalana is a very interesting building; be sure to join one of the guided tours during your stay in Barcelona. But the best way of course to experience this splendid concert hall is buying a ticket and treat yourself to one of the many musical performances. For now you can revel in watching videos and photos in the Photo Gallery.