Barcelona's Palau de la Música Catalana has chosen to shape the programme for its 2018-19 season around the concept of “origin”, which is also the seed with which they want to invest the programme with meaning beyond the music. To this end, several guest artists feature: the poet Màrius Sampere, the artist Antoni Llena and the Mallorcan painter and sculptor Miquel Barceló. The work of these three artists is woven into the programming in the form of exhibitions, lectures and enrichment of the programme notes.

Barceló will be making his contribution at the Palau in May, with clay as the main element: in his hands, this primitive material will acquire a contemporary dimension. The other big artistic proposal will be the collaboration between Barceló and the composer Pascal Dusapin in a concert performance in which the Orfeó Català will appear along their school choirs. Dusapin’s commission is part of a contemporary music cycle centred on the music of two composers invited by the Palau.

Philip Glass is guest composer at the 2018-19 season

Philip Glass will appear both as composer and performer, with his compositions featuring in eleven concerts. Juan de la Rubia and Iveta Apkalna perform works for organ. Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson performs a selection of studies on January 15th and Valentina Lisitsa plays the Orphée Suite on February 25th. Glass’s third and eighth quartets will also be played, and last but not least, we have to mention a concert performance of the opera Einstein on the Beach, which has not been played in Barcelona since 1992. It’s an opera which is an icon of the latter part of the twentieth century, so its staging in May, featuring Collegium Vocale Gent, Ictus Ensemble and conductor Georges-Elie Octors, will be an important event. The other guest composer is the Catalan Josep Maria Guix, whose fascinating world links the season: the Orchestra del Liceu will play Imatges d'un món efímer and BCN16 will give the première of Jardín seco in a concert which also features the delicacy of pieces like Stella, Drizzle Draft and On Reflection (all three for piano) and Vent del capvespre, for ensemble. Guix's sophisticated writing will be appreciated again on a evening with Abel Tomàs (violin), Arnau Tomàs (cello) and Josep Colom (piano) where they will play Slowly in the mist (Three haikus for violin, cello and piano). This work is inspired on poems by Issa Kobayashi and Guix recreates the delicacy, the brevity and the evocative of the texts. El Cor de Cambra del Palau perform Pax optima rerum and Versa est luctum. This interesting selection of pieces will give us the chance to enjoy the sound and beauty of Guix's compositions.

Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel

The versatile director Gustavo Dudamel opens and closes the 2018-19 season. On September 18 and 19 and in front of the talented Gustav Mahler Orchestra, Dudamel will present two solid and attractive programmes firmly rooted in the symphonic tradition. Schubert’s Mozartian Fifth Symphony and the little gem which is his Third will be paired with the Brahms’ monumental Fourth and Mahler’s Fourth, the celestial symphony that looks backwards to the classics and marks the end of his symphonic cycle based on Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Dudamel's presence is the result of the Palau’s commitment to establishing long term relationships with ensembles and conductors. Thus the Collegium Vocale Gent returns with Bach’s Mass in B minor under the watchful baton of Philippe Herreweghe: we can expect this magnificent work to sound elegant and atmospheric under his guidance. There will be more Bach to enjoy, with the Gabrieli Consort and Players performing the St Matthew Passion. McCreesh’s interpretive choices and the wonderful voices of his ensemble will offer a reading of this expressive work that may well sit among the best available. Establishing long term commitments with various artists offers opportunities that are real treats for music lovers, such as listening to a complete corpus of works over the course of consecutive seasons. Specifically, the harpsichordist Benjamin Alard has embarked on Bach’s complete solo keyboard works and will be offering the 8th instalment. Alard will be complemented by Thomas Dunford, who plays Bach’s works for lute, and the Gerhard Quartet, who perform Mozart’s string quartets dedicated to Haydn. Pianist András Schiff takes on the Goldberg Variations.

Gabrieli Consort and Players with conductor Paul McCreesh
© Andy Staples

The Liceu Orchestra escape the operatic pit to play The Rite of Spring and El amor brujo under the baton of their principal conductor, Josep Pons. The music of these two emblematic ballets, juxtaposed in the same program, are brilliantly composed and they share powerful rhythms and exuberant expressiveness, one rooted in the traditions of Russia and the other in those of the gypsies. Another great work featuring in the season is Mozart’s Requiem, played on this occasion by Thomas Hengelbrock and the Balthasar Neumann Chor und Orchester, a historically informed ensemble likely to offer a version which is both reflective and musically excellent. Another major choral work of the repertoire, Handel's Messiah, will be played by the Zürcher Kammerorchester under the direction of Daniel Hope; the Cor de Cambra del Palau will bring Charles Jennens’ libretto to life. The Messiah is one of the world’s most performed works, but a version with the charismatic Hope as a conductor should be a unique experience.

From Handel’s baroque to Glass’ minimalism, the Palau’s choirs are at the core of the season. The Cor de Cambra del Palau, the Orfeó Català and the choirs of the Orfeó school are at the origin of the Palau de la Música: as one might expect, they play a crucial role in a season labelled “origins”. The Orfeó Català are the voices for the cantata Alexander Nevsky; the music that Prokofiev composed for the Eisenstein film will be performed by the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater under the direction of Valery Gergiev; the virtuoso Daniil Trifonov will play Rachmaninov’s Third piano concerto to complete an evening of Russian greatness. The Orfeó will also perform Glass’s Vessels, with Glass himself at the piano.

The Orfeó Català
© Ricardo Rios

 The traditional concert of San Esteban, will take to the stage both the Cor de Cambra del Palau and the Orfeó Català choirs. Under Jonathan Nott, two of Orfeó’s younger choirs will perform Mahler's Third with the Gustav Mahler Youth Symphony Orchestra. Gustavo Dudamel reappears at the Palau to close the season, conducting the Munchner Philharmoniker, the Cor de Cambra and the Orfeo Català in an intense emotional journey through Mahler Second Symphony.

There is also room for opera on this varied programme: Sir John Eliot Gardiner returns to the Palau to lead his Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, this time in a concert performance of Händel’s Semele. A concert performance of La Cenerentola will spread Rossini’s magic over the Palau’s stage; it’s an iconic role for Cecilia Bartoli, who will head up a cast who have been touring to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the opera’s première.

Diana Damrau will perform alongside Xavier de Maistre
© Jiyang Chen

And in the vocal galaxy, the stars have aligned and three cycles shine with especial brilliance: Renée Fleming performs works by Brahms and Schubert, Magdalena Kožená gives a recital accompanied by Mitsuko Uchida and Diana Damrau performs with the accompaniment of harpist Xavier de Maistre. Juan Diego Flórez will give a recital under the title “Flórez Universe” and baritone Simon Keenlyside will join pianist Martin Martineau on a programme by Schubert, Wolf, Poulenc and Fauré, among others. Especially interesting is the project presented by Matthias Goerne and Leif Ove Andsnes and dedicated to Schubert: three lieder cycles in consecutive concerts (Die Schöne Müllerin, Winterreise and Schwanengesang) provide an opportunity to enjoy the wonderful voice of Goerne and the special sensitivity of Andsnes in some of the most inspired and emotional songs for voice and piano ever written.

Grigory Sokolov could not miss his annual appointment with the Spanish audience and although his programme is not yet known, his loyal fans will have already penned March 6th into their diaries to listen to the outstanding Russian pianist. Other great pianists feature at the Palau season: Josep Colom will play the last three sonatas of Beethoven and Javier Perianes, with his unique sound, will offer a programme of works by Chopin, Albéniz and Falla, as well as giving the première of Joan Guinjoan’s La llum naixent. Young brothers Lucas and Arthur Jüssen brim with talent and in their recitals for two pianos they achieve a unique communion: they will play The Rite of Spring. Another young talent whose career we should keep tracking is Benjamin Grosvenor, who plays works by Schumann, Janáček and Prokofiev.

The Palau programming is completed by young performers, chamber music, and more popular options such as the traditional Catalan “cobla” concerts.


You can see all listings here.

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