Barcelona IV: Palau de la Musica Catalana

This Catalan concert hall is another Modernista building; it was done by Domenech i Montaner (of Casa Lleo Morera fame) in 1908 for the choral society Orfeo Catala.  The hall seats over 2000 and celebrates Catalan culture.  Although the building incorporates the rich floral decoration of stone, ceramic tile and stained glass typical of the Modernisme era, here the design pays strict attention to function.

We’ll start with the outside; today’s entry is a modern add-on, with a courtyard and lots of glass; what we didn’t know until later is that the original entrance, no longer used, was from the building’s side.  Guests entered directly from a small street through beautiful arches surrounded by a richly decorated facade, shown below.  It’s gorgeous!  Today this

cramped street is lined by tall buildings, and it’s not possible to step back and get a good picture of the facade; but hopefully I got enough to impress.

Of course the interior is where the OMG is located.  The lobby is shown below; the current entrance takes you directly to the bar that serves drinks and yummy tapas (Spain is so ahead of the US in certain ways).  The lobby is huge, but it’s broken into more intimate-

feeling spaces by the many cathedral-like columns that frame vaulted ceilings – the vaults defined by tiles rather than stone, a nice touch.  In some of the areas there is extensive beautiful stained glass, as shown in the last two pictures.

Two grand marble staircases lead from the lobby to the upstairs concert hall.  The marble handrails are supported by transparent yellow glass columns – different, but it works.  The

ceilings and underside of the staircases are covered with lightly colored tiles that form gleaming canopies.  Gorgeous stained glass is in the windows.  It really is very impressive!

Going up the stairs, one comes to the two-story-high Lluis Millet Hall, a visually

impressive gathering place for concert-goers and the entrance to the concert hall’s main floor.  So let’s see the concert hall!  The pictures below look toward and away from the

stage.  There’s a lot going on around that stage!  The concert hall is the only one in Europe that can be illuminated entirely by natural light during the day.  The walls on two sides consist of gorgeous stained glass set within magnificent arches – I’ll show them off soon – but the hall is primarily illuminated by an enormous skylight that is directly overhead.  So let’s look up.  Ah – yeah.  It’s awesome!  The skylight is like a huge kaleidoscope, the

design representing a choir singing in the sky around the sun.  What’s really going on, however, is only visible from the balconies.  Take another look at this skylight, bringing

light deeper into the concert hall.  Surprise!  It’s in 3-D!  And spectacular.

The concert hall stage is equally impressive in its own right.  Let’s start with the back wall of the stage, where young women, popularly known as the muses, are playing musical

instruments.  Both the women’s upper bodies and their musical instruments are sculpted in stone and protrude from the wall.  Their lower bodies are done in colorful mosaics depicting regional clothes.  Details of some of the muses from the left side are shown below; the women are playing different musical instruments, and each is wearing a

different skirt, blouse, and headdress.  Some muses from the right side are shown here.

Not to be outdone, there is a whole lot of sculpture arching over the front of the stage!  On

the right is a depiction of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, from an opera with a strong female choir.  Below that is a bust of Beethoven, presumably in honor of the choral “Ode to Joy” from his 9th Symphony.  On the left is a bust of a famous choir director who revived Catalan folk songs (not shown), with a large stone tree above him; below him are girls

singing the Catalan song “The Flowers of May”.   The arch represents folk music on the left and classical music on the right, the two approaching each other at the top.

Need a bit of air at intermission?  The Lluis Millet Hall has a beautiful side room with a door going to a balcony lined by two rows of absolutely fabulous columns decorated with

gorgeous, intricate mosaics – it’s the same 2nd floor balcony that we saw from outside in the very first set of pictures.

I’ve given you views of pieces of this concert hall, now let me try to give you a feeling for the overall effect that includes the concert seating.  That gorgeous overhead skylight (oh, let’s just show it again!) is surrounded by beautiful columns in tile and mosaic and by a lot

of stained glass.  It’s beautiful everywhere you look.  Below are details of the windows and skylights at the back of the upper balcony.

The columns are decorated with floral patterns formed by mosaic and tile.

The columns flare out beautifully at the ceiling.

Finally, some details of the ubiquitous stained glass.

As you might imagine, anybody who is anybody – artists and conductors – have performed in this gorgeous Modernista building.  Beautiful, isn’t it?

For our next post we’ll do a change of pace and tour La Rambla, Barcelona’s most famous street.

 

 

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