We went to the Palau de Musica Catalana this evening. Home of one of our greater economic scandals. The director seems to have made off with something between 20 and 30 million Euros, and even had the *ahem* cojones to bill for his daughter's 100,000 Euro wedding, AND had the grooms family pay for half of that as well, leaving him with a tidy 50,000 Euro profit!
Scuzz aside, the building is amazing, and the music was wide ranging this evening. You have to understand how very nationalist the place is to start with. The programs are printed in Catalan. Period. No Spanish, no English for the tourists. Catalan.
We went to a very very Catalan performance as well, we had a piece that had only been performed once before and that was in 1956, by a Catalan conductor. That one sounded like it should have been the - very competent - sound track to an animated film, and the second was sublime. Greig, with a Latvian pianist who was simply astonishingly good. Vestard Shimkus. Very very involved young pianist, with every twitching fibre of his being. He did an improvised variations on Beetoven's ninth which was very witty and very funny.....Youngest would have aDOREd it.
Then another Catalan piece by a watchmaker who had never studied, which was fine. Brilliant, no. Fine, especially for a complete amateur. The final one, well they didn't hold ANYTHING back. They had, for instance, five percussionists, all of them working away fairly steadily. At the end of the piece, when EVERYONE was giving it all they'd got, down to the kettle drums and a gong, I noticed that the harpist was still playing as well. Maybe that wasn't strictly necessary, we probably really couldn't hear her contribution. Good intentions and all, but really not very audible.
That was long and probably not that interesting, but the story the old lady in front of me told me was delightful. Asked where we were all from, blah blah blah, told me she'd visited Toronto, she'd seen a humming bird and it was lovely. Then she told me the story of the Palau!
I loved her version. They don't tell it this way on the tour or in the books.
Seems the good old boys were all going to the bars in the evenings and drinking up all the money. So a group of people, including painters and other intellectuals got together, headed down to the bars and told the boys that if they came along with them to learn to sing a few songs, they could make some money at it. Seems this was well received, so off they went. There was some success, so they grew. Travelled, sang, made more money, but were still rehearsing in the bars so a fair amount of the grocery money was still going down their throats. The Palau was born.