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Palau de la Música Catalana
Palau de la Música Catalana Review
One of the world's most extraordinary music halls, with facades that are a riot of color and form, the Music Palace is a landmark of Carrer Amadeus Vives, set just across Via Laietana, a five-minute walk from Plaça de Catalunya. From its polychrome-ceramic ticket windows on the Carrer de Sant Pere Més Alt side to its overhead busts of (from left to right) Palestrina, Bach, Beethoven, and (around the corner on Carrer Amadeus Vives) Wagner, the Palau is a flamboyant tour de force designed in 1908 by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Originally conceived by the Orfeó Català musical society as a vindication of the importance of music at a popular level—as opposed to the Liceu opera house's identification with the Catalan (often Castilian-speaking and monarchist) aristocracy—the Palau and the Liceu were for many decades opposing crosstown forces in Barcelona's musical as well as philosophical discourse.
The exterior is remarkable in itself. The Miquel Blay sculptural group over the corner of Amadeu Vives and Sant Pere Més Alt is Catalonia's popular music come to life, with everyone included from St. George the dragon slayer (at the top) to women and children, fishermen with oars over their shoulders, and every strain and strata of popular life and music, the faces of the past fading into the background. The glass facade over the present ticket-window entrance is one of the city's best examples of nonintrusive modern construction over traditional structures.
The Palau's interior is, well, a permanent uproar before the first note of music is ever heard. Wagnerian cavalry explodes from the right side of the stage over a heavy-browed bust of Beethoven; Catalonia's popular music is represented by the flowing maidens of Lluís Millet's song "Flors de Maig" ("Flowers of May") on the left. Overhead, an inverted stained-glass cupola seems to offer the divine manna of music straight from heaven; painted rosettes and giant peacock feathers explode from the tops of the walls; and even the stage is populated with muse-like Art Nouveau musicians all across the back wall. The visuals alone make music sound different here, and at any important concert the excitement is palpably thick.
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