Simon Halsey will be the artistic director of the Orfeó Català choirs and artistic adviser to the Palau de la Música Catalana

On April it took place the presentation of the 2016-17 season by the Fundació Orfeó Català-Palau de la Música Catalana. A season focusing on quality and excellence with a central theme: choral singing. The programme presents the top names on the international scene, forges a closer relationship between the Palau and leading performers while creating an artistic discourse of its own, supports the promotion of music of the 20th and 21st centuries with several world premières and Salvador Brotons as guest composer for the season, reclaims Catalan musical heritage, gives a voice to Catalan performers and rising stars, upholds its educational commitment and continues its work for social inclusion in the community through choral singing. All this helps to cement the position of the Palau as an essential cultural landmark on the European musical map.

The arrival of Simon Halsey and the central role of the choirs. Celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Orfeó Català

After a preliminary announcement last July, we can now formally announce that from the 2016-17 season onwards Simon Halsey will be the artistic director of the Orfeó Català choirs and artistic adviser to the Palau de la Música Catalana. Halsey comes to Barcelona with the mission of continuing the revival of the great choral family of the Orfeó Català, consolidating its quality and prestige and ensuring that singing remains at the core of the Palau’s activities. Halsey is exceptionally qualified to do this, after his transformational leadership of choirs at the highest level (both amateur and professional), highlights including the Radio Berlin Choir and the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Choir, and more recently the London Symphony Orchestra Choir. Considered one of the finest conductors in the world in the choral repertoire, he is an influential ambassador for choral music. Halsey takes over from Josep Vila i Casañas, who leaves the ensemble after 18 years at its head, having taken on major challenges and achieved historic milestones.

This important news coincides with the 125th anniversary of the Orfeó Català. The celebration begins on 8th May with a concert that forms part of the 2015-16 season, and continues over the 2016-17 season with a total of seven concerts to commemorate the occasion. The anniversary is brought to a close on 14th May 2017 with a concert featuring the Cor de Cambra of the Palau and dedicated to the great maestros of the Orfeó Català. There will also be an exhibition by the CEDOC in the Palau Foyer and a round table on the history of the Orfeó.

As regards the role of the house choirs this season, highlights include the appearance of the Orfeó Català and the Cor Jove in Verdi’s Requiem de Verdi alongside the London Symphony Orchestra and Gianandrea Noseda (12.09.16); performances by the Orfeó and the Cor de Cambra conducted by Gustavo Dudamel of Beethoven’s Ninth (15.03.17), and with the well-known organist Cameron Carpenter (08.11.16), and the appearance of the Cor de Cambra and the Cor Jove performing Mahler’s Second alongside the Teresa Carreño youth orchestra (27.10.16).

A milestone in the choral field is the creation of the Cicle Cor de Cambra, dedicated to the Palau’s professional choir, with six concerts to take place on Sunday morning featuring top international conductors. A choral programme to be added to the well-established Cicle Coral Orfeó Català – with thirteen concerts – which showcases the country’s choral talent and this year presents Schola Cantorum from Caracas (on the occasion of its 50th anniversary) as guest international choir. As well as the traditional Concert de Sant Esteve, the series will also include the première of a work commissioned from Salvador Brotons and the performance of Fauré’s Requiem by the Orfeó Català and the Cor de Cambra under Halsey’s baton (26.11.16), and of Duruflé’s Requiem, also conducted by the choir director, featuring the cellist Lluís Claret and the organist Juan de la Rubia (05.04.17).

Beethoven, Monteverdi and Bach

This season is especially dedicated to two great composers: Ludwig van Beethoven and Claudio Monteverdi. Two figures who made such important innovations in their own artistic universes that they revolutionised the history of music. With concerts and talks, the Palau will present their enormous importance for western music.

All of Beethoven’s symphonies will be performed, a real marathon of five concerts on four consecutive days with Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar. A very special event for the audience and for the city, with the energy of a Dudamel on top form who comes to the Palau after conducting the New Year’s Concert in Vienna in 2017. This season will also include the first of two sessions devoted to all the piano trios by the genius from Bonn, with the Trio Ludwig. The other major Beethoven-related project will be the performance in three sessions, two of them this season, of all the violin and piano sonatas by this legendary composer, by Leonidas Kavakos and Enrico Pace. Kavakos, an acclaimed violinist, forges a new link with the Palau over two seasons. Also in homage to Beethoven, the Palau is to première the new educational production Big Bang Beethoven.

Like Beethoven, Monteverdi represents a major turning point in the history of music. In 2017 the Palau will be celebrating the 450th anniversary of the composer’s birth with Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner and featuring his beloved ensembles. This will be the first complete performance in the city of this opera by Monteverdi (03.05.17). Also in connection with the anniversary, the acclaimed Balthasar Neumann Chor & Ensemble, conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado, will be performing part of Selva morale e spirituale (09.02.17).

For the third year running the Palau is to devote a series to Johann Sebastian Bach with the aim of presenting the work of the Kantor of Leipzig with the finest performers. This project recalls the dream of the founder of the Orfeó Català, Lluís Millet: to present Bach’s work in Barcelona under the best possible conditions. This year the series features Thomas Dunford, who as part of a long-term project together with the Palau will be presenting Bach’s works for lute over four years. It also includes the eagerly-awaited performance of the Saint Matthew Passion by René Jacobs; an appearance by Benjamin Alard, returning for his fourth season to the Palau to present The Art of the Fugue, and a performance by Cantus Cölln, one of the liveliest groups of vocal soloists on the musical scene, with all Bach’s motets. The project of presenting the complete catalogue of Bach’s cantatas over sixteen years begins this year in the Petit Palau with the Cor Lieder Càmera (27.11.16).

Top names on the international scene and long-term projects

Palau 100, together with the Beethoven’s Complete Symphonies, Piano, Bach, Cambra and Grans Veus series make up a total of 42 concerts which set out to be unique experiences, sessions featuring leading performers, conductors and ensembles. As well as the essential concerts mentioned above, this season presents the stunning voices of three international stars: Bejun Mehta (25.04.17), Juan Diego Flórez (14.02.17) and Philippe Jaroussky (14.11.16), and the return of Cecilia Bartoli, this time for one of her rare recitals with piano (27.03.17). There will be acclaimed pianists, like the highly-respected Grigory Sokolov (12.02.17), the charismatic Yuja Wang (20.03.17), the thought-provoking Alexei Volodin (15.02.17) and András Schiff (23.11.16), whose recital completes the fascinating journey of performing the last three sonatas by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert over three seasons. The season’s attractions also include a performance by William Christie and Les Arts Florissants of Händel’s Messiah, in one of the most extraordinary versions of this oratorio (15.12.16); a concert conducted by Yuri Temirkanov with Leticia Moreno as solo violinist (23.05.17); an appearance by the violinist Pinchas Zukerman alongside Yefim Bronfman to perform three unique sonatas (19.03.17), or Mozart’s last three symphonies, conducted for the first time by Jordi Savall with Le Concert des Nations (21.06.17).

With the aim of developing its own artistic discourse, for four seasons now the Palau has been working to forge links with leading artists on the international scene through ambitious projects. As well as the long-term work mentioned above with Christie, Kavakos, Schiff, Dunford, Alard and the Trio Ludwig, this year René Jacobs culminates his commitment to the Palau with Mozart’s Così fan tutte, in an eagerly-awaited performance that follows his recent appearances which have revolutionised the operas by the genius of Salzburg with their luminous originality. This season also sees the culmination of the Palau’s cooperation with Mark Padmore and Paul Lewis, who will perform the introspective Winterreisse.

Catalan creativity: Salvador Brotons, guest composer

The Palau de la Música Catalana, renewing its commitment to contemporary creativity, is for the fifth year running including the figure of the guest composer in its season. After successful experiences with Joan Guinjoan, Ramon Humet, Arvo Pärt and Bernat Vivancos and Hèctor Parra, successively, the Palau wishes to use the 2016-17 season to showcase the work of Salvador Brotons, who will have three pieces premiered and whose work will be present throughout the programme.

In the sphere of Catalan composition, highlights include three thematic concerts devoted to music from this country: “Grans èxits de la sardana” [“Sardana Hits”] (21.03.17), “Els mestres de l’Orfeó Català” [“Maestros of the Orfeó Català”], on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the choir as mentioned above, and a concert by the OBC conducted by Kazushi Ono, featuring works by Borgunyó, Cervelló, Toldrà, Gerhard and Montsalvatge. Other Catalan composers included in the 2016-17 season are Albéniz, Casals, Català, Ferrer, Granados, Guinjoan, with the première of his Fiat Lux performed within the Palau 100 season by the Orquestra Simfònica del Gran Teatre del Liceu conducted by its director, Josep Pons. Other composers featured this season include Guinovart, Iniesta, Lamote de Grignon, Martínez i Comín, Mompou, Oltra, Parra, Pujol, Ros Marbà, Serra, Sor, Suriñac and Valls i Duran.

Dialogue with the visual arts: (Re)conquering the Lost Paradise

As part of the dialogue with the visual arts, with music as a pretext, this year sees a reflection on the Palau as a space for discovery. With Kiki Smith and Pandemònia, guest artists for the 2016-17 season, the Palau sets out to push the viewer to reinforce the emotional experience of the concert. Kiki Smith shows the curative power of art through an exhibition, while the action of Pandemònia enables listeners to experience a reaction to changes in highly codified environments. An invitation to the audience to make the venue their own and be enriched by their experiences.

Figures and co-productions

The 2016-17 season features a total of 112 concerts. To these are added the family and school concerts and other one-off projects. It should also be stressed that out of this total, 33 concerts are co-productions: with the Orquestra Simfònica del Vallès in the Simfònics al Palau series, with the Orquestra Nacional Clàssica d’Andorra in the ONCA al Palau series, and also with POEMA SL in the Mestres de la Guitarra al Palau series; with the Auditori de Barcelona in ECHO Rising Stars and the complete Bach cantatas series, among others.

Season tickets

With the aim of making the Palau more accessible to the public the Abonament Jove [Youth Season Ticket] scheme is continued and extended up to the age of 35 (for sales of both individual and season tickets), with 40% discounts on season tickets. Building on the success of the scheme in the 2015-16 season, the flexible formula of the Abonament a Mida [Season Ticket to Measure] is continued, whereby audiences can choose their own concert programme from the different series, with discounts ranging from 10% to 20%. Season ticket holders are also offered the Butaca Lliure [Free Seat] service: if a season ticket holder is unable to attend one of their concerts, the ticket is placed on sale,so that they can recover 75% of the cost.Season ticket holders also benefit from discounts on further tickets and second season tickets.

Another novelty is being introduced this season for the Rising Stars season; this is the taquilla inversa [reverse box office], where the audience pays for the ticket at the end of the concert according to how much they liked it. Also introduced are basic and extended versions of season tickets for the Palau 100 and Simfònics al Palau series, taking into account the special concerts, and a new season ticket is offered for the Integral de Simfonies de Beethoven [complete Beethoven symphonies]. Also new is the Tarifa Comparteix [Share Rate], for groups of four people, with a 10% discount (except Palau 100 and Grans Veus), to encourage people to come to concerts in groups. Another novelty is the implementation of the e-ticket, with the ticket available on a mobile device.

Renewals of season tickets (and sales of additional tickets for 2015-16 season ticket holders) begin on 5th April (until 22nd), while new season tickets are on sale from 27th April. Tickets and Abonaments a Mida [Season Tickets to Measure] will be on sale to the general public from 31st May onwards. 

Dudamel, Gardiner, Bartoli, Wang, Flórez, Jaroussky, Zukerman, Temirkanov, Beczala, Jacobs, Christie, Schiff, Dunford, London Symphony Orchestra, Savall and Bejun Mehta are just some of the artists featured in the 2016-17 season at the Palau de la Música Catalana