With 120 concerts and 60 complementary activities, the 2019-2020 season at the Palau de la Música Catalana aspires to transform

The season features collaborations from today’s most prominent artists in the Palau de la Música Catalana’s artistic project as well as with the choirs

  • Dudamel, Rattle, Gardiner, Savall, DiDonato, Lang Lang, Salonen, Wang, Mehta, Faust, Mutter, Gerhaher, Bartoli, Jaroussky, Buniatishvili, Yoncheva, Roth, Jansen, Kavakos, Goerne, Herreweghe, Pons, Widmann and Magrané are the big names on the bill this season 
  • Bill Viola, Joan Fontcuberta, Perejaume & cabosanroque and Blanca Llum Vidal are included as guest artists

This year, the Palau de la Música Catalana season is based around the central theme of Transformation: a concept that explains how music can have a transformative power and how it impacts the audience, who are encouraged to leave the concert hall feeling a bit different to when they arrived. The Palau is conceived as a space where music transforms people – whether through the repertoire presented, with its great power of appeal and the pleasure of revisiting or discovering it; through the musical stars who reinterpret, update and transform the scores; the guest artists who reflect on internal and external transformation and the intensity of different artistic languages; or the activities surrounding the concerts, which invite participants to create new connections and develop new, equally transformative interests, as part of Hivernacle, the complementary programme.

Beethoven, Bach, Widmann and Magrané: the big names this season
Beethoven will unquestionably be one of the stars of the season, with the 250th anniversary of his birth falling in December 2020. More than anyone else, this German composer from the city of Bonn represented a transformation in this history of music, marking a true turning point. The Palau will thus seek to pay tribute to this radical change with a significant presence of the composer’s work in the programming. The highlight of this tribute will be the performance of The Complete Symphonies conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, in the only stop in Spain on a tour with just five destinations. These concerts will provide a new look at an eternal work that is again transformed by one of the greats in conducting. The Palau will also present the semi-staged version of Fidelio, Beethoven’s only opera, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, as well as the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives, with Sir Simon Rattle, and Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II, symphonic choral works that will also feature the involvement of the Orfeó, the Cor de Cambra chamber choir and the Cor Jove youth choir, underscoring that the Palau’s choral groups are key to our programming. 

Johann Sebastian Bach will also be a composer on the bill next season. Revered by Beethoven and a source of inspiration for many others, Bach’s work has historically been closely linked to the Palau and the Orfeó. This year will see the performance of the Christmas Oratorio with Jordi Savall, conducting it for the first time at the express request of the Palau; the two great Passions with Philippe Herreweghe, one of the leading conductors of Bach; the Goldberg Variationswith Lang Lang; the Complete Cello Suiteswith Alisa Weilerstein; and the evening with Angela Hewitt featuring the Italian Concerto. Moreover, lutenist Thomas Dunford and harpsichordist Benjamin Alard will also be making appearances to use their huge talents to bring the scores by the Cantor from Leipzig to life.

The artistic languages of the season’s two guest composers, the German Jörg Widmann and Catalan Joan Magrané are transformative as well. Widmann, who is also a clarinettist and conductor, is one of the most versatile and captivating artists of his generation. A composer who questions and revises genres, he uses improvisation and the collage technique to create new works. His work, heavily influenced by Beethoven as well, will be performed throughout the season by Anne Sophie Mutter, Widmann himself on clarinet, the Heath Quartet, the ESMUC Contemporary Music Ensemble, and the Orquestra Simfònia de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya as well as the Orfeó Català which will be premièring a work of his that was specially commissioned (12/06/20). It will be a pleasure for the Palau to have the presence of one of the greats in contemporary composition during the first week of June and to get a deeper understanding of him through his music and words.

Additionally, the Palau will be providing the opportunity to get a closer look at Joan Magrané and the current state of Catalan music composition. Magrané’s work conveys ideas through sensory images constructed from many musical, visual and poetic influences. A total of eight concerts will present the pieces of a composer who excels at working with forms and genres, premièring three pieces, two of which are choral and will be performed with the Cor de noies of the Orfeó Català and the Cor de Cambra of the Palau, as well as the piece Songs on poems by Carner, performed by Elena Copons accompanied by Jordi Armengol on piano.

Five of the world’s best conductors direct the choirs
With the choirs as the focus of the Palau’s artistic project and their internationalisation serving as the guide, the choir project grows and expands in the fourth season with Simon Halsey at the head of the choir family. It is an honour to announce that five of the world’s best conductors will direct the choirs this season, demonstrating the interest these figures have in the Palau’s choral groups, which have undergone a transformation in recent years and are now recognised the world over. Sir Simon Rattle will once again conduct the Orfeó in the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives; Sir John Eliot Gardiner will feature with the Cor de Cambra for the first time with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9; Paul McCreesh will present Haydn’s The Seasons with the Cor de Cambra and the Cor Jove of the Orfeó; Gustavo Dudamel will again be at the head of the Orfeó and the Cor de Cambra for Beethoven’s Fidelio. Finally, Zubin Mehta has chosen the Cor de Noies and Cor Infantil of the Orfeó to present Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 at L’Auditori in a BCN Clàssics concert.

A season in which the choirs will act in close collaboration with one another and that presents two features, which are the appointment of Pablo Larraz and Xavier Puig as principal conductors of the Orfeó Català and the Cor de Cambra, respectively.

The magnetism of the Palau attracts the biggest and brightest
The Palau’s artistic project has over recent years built its own artistic discourse that forms its own stamp and has made it possible to create strategic relationships with contemporary artists who return year after year to present their best repertoires at the Palau. In addition to the above-mentioned presence of Sir John Eliot Gardiner, we are also proud to be welcoming back Sir Simon Rattle,whose participation will be twofold, as both conductor and pianist alongside his wife Magdalena Kožená; Jordi Savall and Philippe Herreweghe. There will also be a double appearance by Gustavo Dudamel, conducting the Mahler Chamber Orchestra on two occasions, and a new visit from Zubin Mehta and the Wiener Philharmoniker with Janine Jansen as soloist. Violinist Leonidas Kavakos will return this year with the NDR Elbphilharmonie, conducted by Alan Gilbert, to present Béla Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2, while the Orquestra Simfònica del Gran Teatre del Liceu, under musical director Josep Pons, will present the programme ‘Europa 1900’, which will include highlights such as the performance of Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto ‘To the Memory of an Angel’.

Artists such as Cecilia Bartoli, with a programme featuring arias and overtures by Vivaldi, or the double participation of Philippe Jaroussky, who returns to the Palau after his last sell-out performance with an evening of lieder and a concert with orchestra dedicated to the treasures of the Baroque, are also examples of the fondness that great singers have for the audience and stage at the Palau.

We will also have Grigory Sokolov in his thirteenth consecutive performance at the Palau, and in the field of piano, we will again be presenting Alexander Melnikov, Yuja Wang, Benjamin Grosvenor, Elisabeth Leonskaja and Khatia Buniatishvili – the biggest names on international stages.

It is a pleasure to host two performances from Isabelle Faust, one of which will be alongside Jean Guihen Queyras, another star of the Palau’s seasons, who, together with pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Jörg Widmann on clarinet, will perform Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, an apocalyptic work.

Anne-Sophie Mutter will write the next chapter in her story with the Palau, performing together with supporting violinists, who will be doing the Spanish première of Widmann’s Study on Beethoven, a collage inspired by the classical composer.

Cellist Steven Isserlis also returns, with his unique tribute to Pau Casals, while in terms of the younger generations, the Palau keeps shining the spotlight on artists such as Cuarteto Quiroga, violinist Leticia Moreno and Quartet Gerhard, with whom we will continue to revisit Mozart’s Haydn Quartets, which will also be covered by Magrané. 

New names, new collaborations
The Palau also aims to add its stamp to a group of artists who, despite having already made names for themselves, have yet to début at the Palau de la Música Catalana. They include Tabea Zimmermann, one of the best violists on the scene today, who will perform alongside Widmann and Varjon; pianist Beatrice Rana, performing for the first time in Barcelona; and also François-Xavier Roth, who with his group Les Siècles, will conduct The Rite of Spring, a work that represented a revolution and transformation when it premièred in 1913, for which Roth will seek the original sound. 

The 2019-2020 season will also see débuts from mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, sopranos Sonya Yoncheva and Carolyn Sampson, countertenor Jakub Józef Orlinki, baritone Benjamin Appl and baritone and bass Christian Gerhaher, all acclaimed names among the who’s who of lyrical singing.

The Palau beyond the music: Bill Viola, Joan Fontcuberta, Perejaume i cabosanroque and Blanca Llum Vidal, guest artists
With the aim of going one step further than the literal function of the Concert Hall, creating a more extensive artistic story with the audience and reinforcing the common theme of Transformation, the Palau is enlarging its creative family by inviting artists whose works also have huge transformative power. Thanks to Bill Viola, a pioneer of video art, audiences will have the opportunity to enjoy his moving altarpieces where mysticism and internal transformation are consubstantial elements. There will be three occasions during the season that will feature Viola: in a concert where his projections will be shown alongside Edgar Varèse’s Déserts; on Bill Viola Night, when the Palau will host projections of The Crossing, The Messenger and Inverted Birth, in an uninterrupted session that is simultaneous with other sessions that will take place at the Liceu and La Pedrera; and finally, the third occasion will be the four projections of benchmark films and videos he has produced, at the Petit Palau.

Joan Fontcuberta, artist, essayist, critic and photographer – considered one of the most universal Catalan artists – will present an exhibition at the Palau starting in March, with works from the Trauma series, a project that explains the transformation process using photos affected by different pathologies. Fontcuberta rescues these ‘ill’ photos, which have suffered some kind of injury or wear, once they have nearly disappeared and lost the information they contained. This artist also took part in defining and creating the graphics and book for the season.

In addition, Perejaume and cabosanroque will present the exhibition ‘A name’ in the Palau Foyer from 12 December to 19 January 2020. This project presents the results of a series of workshops with boys and girls with a degree of deep awareness, where the fact of recognising their signature represented a transformative moment for all of them: the birth of a personal graphic identity. This signature/drawing transferred to a stave provided the second result: a sound mark for the signature.

Finally, the guest poet this year will be Blanca Llum Vidal (Barcelona, 1986), a writer who perfectly embodies the concept of a world in transformation: our idea of love, the body, matter, language and woman. Her verses, present throughout the season and with the Hivernacle activities, will shake up our preconceived ideas to demonstrate that poetic language is revolutionary.

Tributes and premières
The 2019-2020 season at the Palau also seeks to pay tribute to some great Catalan composers. Thus, Joan Guinjoan, who died last January, will be honoured this year in a monographic concert from the BCN2016 ensemble, conducted by Ernest Martínez-Izquierdo, as well as by Quartet Gerhard, who will perform the Quartet written by Guinjoan, a native of Riudoms.

Tribute will also be paid to Eduard Toldrà on the 125th anniversary of his birth, with a concert starring tenor David Alegret and pianist Albert Guinovart, who will be performing the Catalan master’s Songs. Likewise, the Palau will celebrate 60 years since the première of Xavier Montsalvatge’s Cant Espiritual, with lyrics by Joan Maragall, in a concert with the Orfeó (a group that also made its debut last century), the Cor de Cambra and the Orquestra Simfònica del Vallès; as well as the 84th anniversary of the Palau première of Alban Berg's Violin Concerto ‘To the Memory of an Angel’, which will star Arabella Steinbacher alongside the Orquestra Simfònica del Liceu conducted by its musical director, Josep Pons. Steinbacher will be playing the same Stradivarius that Louis Krasner used at the première. The Catalan Art Nouveau venue will also host the concert from Orquestra Simfònica Camera Musicae, with Pablo Sáinz Villegas on guitar, to mark the 80th anniversary of the premiere of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, held at the Palau on 9 November 1940.

In terms of premières, in addition to the ones already mentioned from the guest composers, Elena Copons will première the work Songs on texts by Maria Mercè Marçalby Antoni Ros Marbà, and the Cor de Cambra of the Palau will provide the first performance of the work Carles Guinovart has dedicated to the Palau with lyrics by the poet Carles Duarte, as part of the concert entitled ‘Tradition and creation: 150 years of Catalan choral music’. Finally, the Cobla Mediterrània will perform the symphonic poem 660 anys, which will be premièred this year at the Cervera Easter Festival. 

Hivernacle: how the Palau conceives music and its relationship with audiences and other arts
The Palau’s Hivernacle is programming to complement the concert season that offers over 60 activities to make the Palau more than just a place where music is performed, but also a space for thought and reflection.

The programming includes conferences, exhibitions, music recitals, video art projections, book clubs, visits to luthier workshops and iconic libraries, all geared towards different audiences, but clearly aimed at spreading knowledge and creating a sense of community to promote the musical experience under optimal conditions. With this aim in mind, the Hivernacle returns with three conference + concert itineraries for getting started with classical and 20th- and 21st-century music, led by Pere Andreu Jariod and María José Anglès, as well as links with literature, with conferences that will take place outside the Palau and, in the case of the Lletraferits itinerary, specifically at the Arús public library, which will be celebrating its 125th anniversary.

This year there will also be a series of conferences around the theme of transformation, featuring prominent personalities such as Jordi Savall and the writer Mathias Enard, the philosopher Chantall Maillard, Jörg Widmann and Joan Magrané, the professor Victoria Cirlot and the historian Anna Beer with pianist Sira Hernández. Talks are also programmed around the transformative genius of Beethoven (with Carlos Calderón and Luis Gago), while the pre-concert sessions (Let’s Talk About Music) and post-concert sessions continue to feature as a way to round off the concert experience.

In addition, Hivernacle goes a step further to promote the interdisciplinary nature of the arts by bringing guest artists together: hybrid performances between Joan Magrané, Joan Fontcuberta and Blanca Llum Vidal that represent conversation about their work and the concept of transformation.

As a new feature, and also going beyond its physical boundaries, in June 2020 the Palau will be hosting a creative weekend retreat with Blanca Llum Vidal and Joan Magrané in L’Empordà, as well as a cultural trip to Germany promoted by Baraka Viatges and Te de Tertúlia to discover the roots of Beethoven’s genius.

2019-20 season of the Palau de la Música Catalana. Where music transforms you