Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Thursday 13 August 2015

Palau de la Musica

It's a useful reminder that anything old-fashioned was once the latest thing - when you're told that in Barcelona "Modernisme" doesn't mean the 20th century enjoyment of angles, discords and machinery, but rather what we know as 19th century Art Nouveau, all swirls and curves, flowers, greenery and all things natural.

In Barcelona, Gaudi is the most evident name, but his contemporary Lluis Domenech i Montaner wasn't to be outdone, as can be seen in the exuberance of his Palau de la Musica. Bach glowers down from amid florid tiling on the balconies, a stained class sunburst ceiling and large side windows flood the concert hall with daylight, the stage is framed by busts of a local composer and inspirer of choral societies (complete with burgeoning sculpted forest) on the one side, and on the other, what is claimed to be Beethoven (but looks to me like Wagner, at that time the latest thing), and a troop of Valkyries plunging down from the ceiling.

And if that weren't enough the performers on stage are watched by the figures of  sundry muses emerging from the ceramic sound-reflecting wall.

But all this nature worship was achieved by some up-to-the-minute industrial technicalities. The stairs and balconies are lined with small metal columns enclosed in glass: it's the architect's little hint as to how the floors and balconies are held up, on slender metal shafts hidden by all that decoration, thus freeing the walls to hold as much window as possible.

But why, given all that airiness and light, were the ticket clerks confined to a hobbit-hole?


  1. Having been to Barcelona, I'm very aware of Antoni Gaudi and I've visited the extraordinary Sagrada Familia and the Parc Guell. But I wasn't aware of Lluis Domenech i Montaner, who clearly wasn't such a smart self-publicist! The Palau de la Musica looks amazing. The detailing on the musicians is breathtaking. If I ever get to Barcelona again, I'll be sure to visit.

  2. I didn't know there were Hobbits in Barcelona.