Commissioned by the nationalistic Orfeó Català choral society, this jawdropping concert hall was intended as a paean to the Catalan renaixença and a showcase for the most outstanding Modernista workmanship available. Domènech i Montaner's façade is a frenzy of colour and detail, including a large allegorical mosaic representing the members of the Orfeó Català, and floral tiled columns topped with the busts of Bach, Beethoven and Palestrina on the main façade and Wagner on the side. Inside, a great deal of money has been spent improving the acoustics, but visitors don't really come here to feast their ears: the eyes have it.Decoration erupts everywhere. The ceiling is an inverted bell of stained glass depicting the sun bursting out of a blue sky; 18 half-mosaic, half-relief Muses appear out of the back of the stage; winged horses fly over the upper balcony. The carved arch over the stage represents folk and classical music: the left side has Catalan composer and conductor Anselm Clavé sitting over young girls singing 'Flors de Maig', a traditional Catalan song, while the right has Wagnerian Valkyries riding over a bust of Beethoven.By the 1980s, the Palau was bursting under the pressure of the musical activity going on inside it, and a church next door was demolished to make space for Òscar Tusquet's extension, a project which, combined with the extensive renovations to the old building, spanned over 20 years. Rather than try to compete with the existing façade, the new part h
Designed by architect Rafael Moneo and directed by the affable Joan Oller, L'Auditori tries to offer something to everyone. The 2,400-seat Pau Casals hall, dedicated to the Catalan cellist, provides a stable home for city orchestra OBC, now under the baton of conductor Eiji Oue (although it frequently performs with guest conductors). It's also a place for the revered Jordi Savall to straddle his viola da gamba in an excellent series of early music concerts called El So Original, running from October to April. A more intimate 600-seat chamber space, dedicated to choir leader Oriol Martorell, has a more diverse programme incorporating contemporary and world music, while experimental and children's work is staged in a 400-seat space named after jazz pianist Tete Montoliu. A late-night bus service connects the Auditori with Plaça Catalunya after evening performances.
Since it opened in 1847, two fires, a bombing and financial crisis have failed to quash the spirit and splendour of the Liceu, one of the most prestigious venues in the world and a huge success with the public. A restrained façade opens into an elegant 2,292-seat auditorium of red plush, gold leaf and ornate carvings. The latest mod cons include seat-back subtitles in various languages that complement the Catalan surtitles above the stage. Under the stewardship of artistic director Joan Matabosch and musical director Sebastian Weigle, the Liceu has consolidated its programming policy, mixing co-productions with leading international opera houses with its own in-house productions. Classical, full-length opera is the staple, but small-format opera and contemporary classics also feature.A large basement bar hosts pre-performance talks and recitals, as well as children's shows and other musical events. The Espai Liceu is a 50-seat auditorium with a regular programme of screenings of past operas, while the swish six-floor Conservatori (C/ Nou de la Rambla 82-88, 93 304 11 13, www.conservatori-liceu.es), which is part of the Liceu, lends its 400-seater basement auditorium to classical and contemporary concerts, small-scale operas and jazz.
This fine old library hosts occasional concerts, either in its leafy central patio or a small auditorium. Worth looking out for is the '30 Minuts de Música' cycle from January to May. Organised by the Fundació Mas i Mas (www.fundaciomasimas.org), it's a series of half-hour concerts, mostly chamber music, featuring promising young musicians and the odd, bigger, name.
Finally rehoused in the Auditori concert hall in 2007 after six years in hibernation, the Music Museum's collections comprise over 1,600 instruments, displayed like precious jewels in red velvet and glass cases, along with multimedia displays, interactive exhibits and musical paraphernalia. With pieces spanning the ancient world to the modern day, and including instruments from all corners of the world, the museum's high note is the world-class collection of 17th-century guitars. Temporary exhibitions so far have concentrated on famous Catalan musicians, including the partnership between pianist and composer Enric Granados and cellist Pau Casals.