Whether you are a musical omnivore or only have ears for early music, you’ll find something to get excited about at the Palau de la Música 21/22 season. From recitals and chamber music to operas and symphonic programmes, the Palau is definitely “celebrating life” – their motto for next season. Let’s look forward to their celebration of live music through a wealth of artists, from the most established and the starring ones to the young talents.

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Joyce DiDonato
© Chris Singer

The season’s opera is new and exciting: a diverse programme is rounded off nicely by five baroque titles from Handel, Monterverdi and Purcell. The prestigious historically informed ensemble Vox Luminis debuts at the Palau with semistaged versions of King Arthur on 14th March and The Fairy Queen 16th March. The spectacular apparatus that these early operas used to be staged with will definitely be on show as Vox Luminis reveal their thorough work on the beautiful stage and surroundings of the Art Nouveau building. Noble and heroic deeds of the Romans are depicted in Radamisto and Giulio Cesare, both composed by Handel for the opera company of the Royal Academy of Music; thanks to a splendid budget, Handel could afford the best voices of his day. Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky and sopranos Marie-Nicole Lemieux and Emöke Barath will surely be up to the challenge in Radamisto well matched with Il Pomo d’Oro. Countertenor Christopher Lowrey, soprano Carolyn Sampson and contralto Hilary Summers will join forces in Giulio Cesare with the weighty Spanish ensemble Forma Antiqva. The fifth title will be an italian business, as the acclaimed Europa Galante will perform Monteverdi’s Orfeo under the artistic direction and leading violin of Fabio Biondi.

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Philippe Jaroussky
© Simon Fowler | Warner Classics

Another important series in the Palau season is the symphonic cycle with an appealing selection of some of the best European orchestras. One of the highlights is a project that will definitely make an impression: Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra will perform the four Brahms symphonies in two consecutive days on 9th May and 10th May. Following the recent release of a recording dedicated to some of Stravinsky ballets, François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles will visit the Palau’s Concert Hall with an all Stravinsky programme. The project, previously cancelled due to the pandemic, will include The Firebird Suite, the Violin Concert and The Rite of Spring. Les Siècles play instruments contemporary to the genesis of the compositions: this fresh approach, together with Roth’s thoughtful preparation of Stravinsky scores, opens up the opportunity to appreciate Stravinsky’s striking music in a different way. The violinist Isabel Faust will be in the spotlight for the Violin Concerto. Mendelssohn’s Italian and Mahler’s Titan will sound certainly impressive under the baton of one of the top living conductors, Riccardo Chailly and the Filarmonica della Scala. Another doyen of conducting, Sir John Eliot Gardiner will present soon before Christmas his sensitive approach to Berlioz music on L’enfance du Christ, an oratorio of exquisite music brought to live with Monteverdi Choir joining forces with the house choirs, Cor de Cambra del Palau and Cor Infantil de l’Orfeó Català. Gardiner will be back in June with music from Schütz and Bach.

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Sir John Eliot Gardiner
© Chris Christodoulou

Consummate artists from younger generations have made their way into the season as well, with conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra in Tchaikovsky's Fifth and violinist Nicola Benedetti playing Beethoven's concerto in April. A young sensation you won’t want to miss is soprano Lise Davidsen, who has taken the music world by surprise with an enormous voice and great musicality: despite her youth, she is already diving into Wagnerian operatic roles. She will be joined in December by her compatriots the Bergen Philharmonic to sing Strauss Last Four Songs, conducted by Edward Gardner. María Dueñas, the 18 year-old violinist who has recently won the Menuhin Competition will perform Prokofiev Second Concerto under the joyful and vibrant baton of Alondra de la Parra. Alexandra Dovgan, Grigory Sokolov’s only pupil, is 14 years old and developing her own charisma; she will perform on 28th March. 

Igor Levit, a strong personality on the piano scene, will be playing the demanding Shostakovich 24 preludes and fugues. The plethora of technical difficulty and emotional ranges on those pages will truly reveal Levit’s strengths.Grigory Sokolov won’t miss his  annual visit to the city and Rudolf Buchbinder will present a very personal and interesting project around the Diabelli variations. The piano star system will also be in the Chinese hands of Lang Lang and Yuja Wang. If an opportunity to enjoy Maria João Pires playing arises near you, grab it – she announced her retirement in 2018 but decided later to go back to the stage and who knows when she will decide to abandon the concert hall. Her exquisite and insightful playing is something unique and her renditions of Chopin are praised as lyrical and stylish; in Barcelona she will be playing Concerto no. 2 alongside the Gulbenkian Orchestra.

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Lise Davidsen
© Marco Borggreve

Other great personalities will be present from next Autumn. Joyce DiDonato begins a long artistic collaboration with the Palau starting on 20th September with her project “My favourite things”: theatrical passions and emotions of Monteverdi, Gluck, Handel and Purcell. Diana Damrau and Jonas Kaufmann will sing Lieder by Schumann and Brahms accompanied by Helmut Deutsch on the piano. Early music enthusiasts will find special treats in the last week of April: countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński will sing Handel and Vivaldi; mezzo Lea Desandre with lutenist Thomas Dunford and the Jupiter ensemble with a delightful programme by Dowland and Purcell; harpsichordist Jean Rondeau will engage his public deeply with Bach’s musical jewel, the Goldberg Variations. To keep up with Johann Sebastian Bach music, the excellence will be granted with Balthasar Neumann Chor & Ensemble conducted by Thomas Hengelbrock in the Mass in B minor whereas Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent will devote their energies to read St Matthew Passion.

We can definitely celebrate life through live music performed by some of the best artists at the Palau next season.

Click here to see details of upcoming concerts at the Palau de la Música Catalana.

This preview was sponsored by Palau de la Música-Orfeó-Català.