Palau de la Música Catalana

Palau de la Música Catalana (35)

Better known simply as “el Palau” you will find this jewel almost hidden in a recess off to the left of Via Laietana.

The Palau de la Música Catalana is a temple for music, and also for modernist art. Designed in 1904 by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the first stone was laid on St. George’s Day in 1905 and the building was completed three years later. It is a supreme example of Catalan Modernism and since 1987 it has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. 

The building was commissioned by the “Orfeó Català” – a prestigious musical institution founded in 1891 by Lluís Millet and Amadeu Vives, and it is to them that we owe the recovery of the traditional music and songs of Catalonia. 

It initially occupied the limited premises of an old convent, and the architect had to use all his skills to ensure that the auditorium fitted into the small space between the adjacent streets, while ensuring that the stage was big enough. 

The extension of the building in 2003 by architect Oscar Tusquets allowed a better view of the impressive façades, after the demolition of the church which adjoined the old convent. Now you can see the original bright stained galls window which, submitting to his obsession for light, Domènech i Montaner, gave this jewel of modernist architecture.

The Palau de la Música, together with La Pedrera, is considered to be one of the most supreme examples of Catalan Modernism both for its brilliant, daring architecture and its sumptuous decoration. 

But we have to consider ourselves lucky, because all of that marvellous stained glass, ceramics and use of multiple colours was much criticised at the time and even up to the 1920s it was questioned, to the point where the neighbours called it the "el palau de la quincalleria" or Trinket Palace and other architects of the time tried to get it demolished. Fortunately, they never achieved this and it became one of the last extravagances of Modernism.

The brickwork and multicoloured decoration of ceramics and mosaics are framed by a spectacular sculptural work by Miquel Blay on the corner. It is a clear allegory to popular music and consists of an enormous stone bow, two boys and two old men embracing a nymph while Saint George protects them with the Catalan flag flying in the wind. 

The enormous hollow columns which previously housed the box offices are also curious. 

And if you think the outside is attractive, the interior explains why it is known as a jewel. The elaborate vestibule, tile-covered vaults and the double staircase with golden glass balustrades provide you with an aperitif of what you are about to see. Sculptures, tiles, stained glass, mosaics, and other decorative elements are in constant play with perceptions of light and colour. The allegorical sculptures behind the stage seem to come to life when they are lit up. 

The airy, diaphanous horseshoe-shaped auditorium is crowned by an enormous glass skylight which has come to symbolise the whole place. Weighing in at a tonne it is the work of Rigalt i Granell. This marvellous piece of sumptuary art represents a choir of female angels surrounding the sun. 

Floral motifs are evident throughout the auditorium on all the ornamental elements, both on the ceiling and the stained glass pieces. 

The stage has to be the most spectacular sculpture in the Palau.

In the pre-stage area you can see a curious set of works in pumice stone designed by Domènech i Montaner and made by Dídac Massana and Pau Gargallo. On the left, the set includes a bust of Josep Anselm Clavé and an allegory of May flowers, which represent popular music. On the right, a bust of Beethoven personifies Universal music. Over the bust of Beethoven, the Wagner’s valkyries gallop over towards Clavé, symbolising the relation of new music to the old tradition of popular Catalan music.

The stage is completed by a spectacular German organ. And in the hemicycle, designed by Eusebi Arnau and made in ‘trencadís’ or broken ceramics, are the eighteen beautiful sculptures which represent the muses of music together with an amazing Austrian coat of arms. An Egyptian-style row of balconies and colonnade modestly contribute to the embellishment of the auditorium, which is a real musical sanctuary offering first class performances. 

Listening to live music from any corner of the Palau is an almost mystical experience, as the light, decoration and the atmosphere recreate the intimacy of a private concert hall. 

If you have the opportunity to hear the organ, restored in 2004 thanks to public pressure, you may be on the road to ecstasy.

It is, without any doubt, the great temple of Catalan music, but you will feel at home here. 

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website