In a city already full to brimming with architectural marvels, Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana is a remarkable spectacle. The only concert hall listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO, its mosaic-adorned exterior and sunlight-bathed interior are in the florid Catalan modernista style. It is a unique environment to witness some of the finest musicians from Europe and around the world.

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Orchestral performance at the Palau de la Música Catalana
© Antoni Bofill | BCN Clàssics

The 2023–24 season at the Palau features a rich mix of solo recitals, duos and small ensembles, chamber orchestras and full orchestral concerts. The Palau actually seats over 2,000, but despite its size it retains an intimacy and openness that welcomes solo and chamber music.

But where orchestral forces are asked for, the Palau is welcoming. This October, Antonio Pappano leads the LSO in Strauss’ big-boned Nietzsche-fest Also sprach Zarathustra, with Alice Sara Ott performing Liszt’s Totentanz. Other major orchestral dates for the diary include the Philharmonia Orchestra and Jean-Guihen Queyras performing Schumann and Dvořák in April, and Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic in May.

The roster of piano soloists is particularly strong this year. In addition to Ott’s Totentanz, Lisztomanes should get Beatrice Rana’s recital in the diary: she will be performing the Sonata in B minor. In contrast, Vikingur Ólafsson performs his characteristically light-as-air Goldberg Variations in November, followed by Daniil Trifonov performing Beethoven’s all-too-solid Hammerklavier. Later, Paul Lewis will continue his tour of Schubert sonatas, in December and again in April. And February sees recitals from no less than Sir András Schiff and Grigory Sokolov – repertoire yet to be announced, but expect fireworks.

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Grigory Sokolov at the Palau
© Antoni Bofill

This isn’t even all: Christian Blackshaw performs Mozart in January, Anna Vinnitskaya appears in March, and Yuja Wang performs in June. Young pianists (and recent competition-winners) Dmytro Choni and Alexandra Dovgan bookend the season too.

Some major violin soloists appear with orchestras and in chamber settings in the Palau season as well. In November, no less than Pinchas Zukerman will appear with the Orchestre national de Lyon to perform the Elgar Violin Concerto, a significant rarity. In June, Renaud Capuçon performs with the starry piano trio of Francesco Piemontesi and Daniel Müller-Schott. Piemontesi himself performs Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 25 with the Dresden Philharmonic in January.

Other starry chamber dates include Vadim Repin and Nikolai Lugansky’s appearance in January, and in the same month, the singular Mischa Maisky will appear to perform a selection of Bach’s Cello Suites. And cello fans will want to stick around until the next month, for Sol Gabetta and Bertrand Chayamou’s performance of a variety of cello and piano works.

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Sir Simon Rattle leads the Orfeó Català Choir and the LSO at the Palau
© Antoni Bofill

There are also several choral events worthy of note this season. In November, John Adams conducts the Orfeó Català and the Palau’s own Chamber Chorus in several of his choruses from The Death of Klinghoffer. And the Balthasar-Neumann-Chor also make two appearances in February, for Brahms’ German Requiem and Mendelssohn’s Symphony no. 2 “Lobgesang”. Jordi Savall and the Concert des Nations with the La Capella Reial de Catalunya appear at the Palau in March to perform Bach’s St John Passion, and shortly after the Palau Chamber Chorus and Vespres d’Arnadí are led by Christoph Prégardien in the St Matthew Passion.

This Palau season is great for listeners keen on Baroque music. In December, countertenor Philippe Jaroussky performs with Le Concert de la Loge in a wide-ranging programme including Bach, Handel and several gems of the Galant style, including Jomelli and Hasse. Countertenor and conductor Alex Potter and the Netherlands Bach Society appear shortly after, with a programme including Bach’s Magnificat. In March, The English Concert will present Monteverdi’s spectacular L’incoronazione di Poppea, and the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists appear soon after for Handel’s Israel in Egypt.

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Harry Bicket leads The English Concert
© Richard Termine

Alongside these larger Baroque offerings, there are several organ recitals and even a solo harpsichord recital from Céline Frisch in February. Also, a plethora of string quartets make appearances at the Palau throughout the season, as do a host of singers in recital. A number of outstanding Spanish ensembles and orchestras will perform this season, including the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana and the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona.

One event that piqued our interest is the Banda Municipal de Barcelona’s appearance in June, with a programme including works by Catalan composers Salvador Brotons and Albert Guinovart. One of the oldest Catalan musical institutions, the Banda Municipal has been at the heart of music-making in Barcelona for more than 130 years. Greatly shaped in its early years by Joan Lamote de Grignon, its former guest conductors include Richard Strauss. This concert surely forms a fitting conclusion to the season at this major Catalan musical hotspot.

See all event listings at Palau de la Música Catalana.

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