He does not conceive of his life or work without the energy of music. The artistic director of the Palau de la Música, Mercedes Conde Pons (Monterrey, 1982) was born in Mexico, came to Barcelona when she was a child and soon learned to love music. Her mother is a pianist, she studied at the Marshall Academy, is a humanist and artistic manager and came to the Palau in 2011, as director of the Revista Musical Catalana and coordinator of the cycle of young talents. The First Palace. Last year she changed her professional direction in the modernist temple as the new deputy artistic director after the departure of Víctor García de Gomar to the Liceu. Despite the problems caused by the pandemic, he sees the future of the Palace with optimism and fervently defends the value of music over divisions and labels. “I like music, without labels, both the symphonic repertoire and the lied, chamber music or piano. And I love discovering repertoires I didn’t know existed. That’s why I want an open-minded, imaginative Palace, capable of surprising, with famous star names and orchestras, as always, but also with new values and formats ”.
Question. The Palau has been a pioneer in articulating a summer program in Barcelona that allows you to enjoy live music, unlike the Liceu or the Barcelona Auditorium, which have chosen to keep their doors closed to the public. . How do you rate the public response?
answer. The situation is harsh and complex. We are especially affected by the fall in tourism, which has reduced our income due to the reduction in guided tours and room rental. We also move with a lot of uncertainty, which requires more adaptability in view of each change in situation. But I am optimistic that the music is still alive in the Palau. We have mostly opted for very talented local musicians, our responsibility is to support both the musicians and the audience who need live music during this exceptional situation. And not only is it having a very good reception, but it is showing the great talent we have within four steps. It is obvious that the current situation generates a certain fear of attending events in enclosed spaces among a sector of the public, but it is also true that the security measures we have taken far exceed those required by the administrations. They are concerts in which, despite the social distance, a connection and an atmosphere of intimacy is generated between the audience and the musicians that make each one an unforgettable experience.
P. The cancellation of the Gothenburg Symphony, which was the inaugural concert of Palace 100, will probably not be the only one. Is there an alternative plan for possible tour cancellations?
R. International tours are subject to both the possible performance of the concerts according to the restrictions of each country and the internal management of each orchestra. The Gothenburg Symphony has canceled the tour by its own decision, but so far we have not been notified of any other cancellations and therefore we maintain our schedule for the Palau 100 cycle. If new cancellations occur we will study each case individually and we will look for alternatives. Fortunately, our programming offers much more than symphonic concerts.
P. How does the pandemic affect the design of the artistic offer?
R. The pandemic will not change the way we program, because the diversity and plurality of our offer allows us to continue offering great works from the repertoire. We may go through a time when it’s hard to hear a Mahler or Tchaikovsky with a hundred musicians on stage, but that’s not why we’re giving up. The music stays and the pandemic will pass.
P. The figure of Johann Sebastian Bach is the epicenter of the season that begins in September. Bach, by the way, is performed with reduced numbers, which is a logistical relief in these times.
R. Cert. Bach does not involve large groups of people on stage, but his choice has nothing to do with the current situation but with the commemoration of the Spanish premiere of the Passion according to St. Matthew, which took place on February 27, 1921 at the Palau. Just a hundred years later, the Orfeó Català performs this great work again with great vocal soloists and musicians from the Berlin Philharmonic. For this reason, the Bach cycle this season extends with a very powerful program that includes, among other proposals, the Passion according to St. John, directed by John Eliot Gardiner, the two books of The well-tempered key with Evgeni Koroliov and Piotr Anderszewski respectively, or the integral of the Concerts de Brandenburg with Café Zimmermann.
P. The new season highlights the presence of new values and more prominence of directors and composers. Is the Palau heading towards a more plural and innovative programming, without depending so much on the great gods as in the past, and risking more in the repertoire?
R. We will not give up big names, but we do not want to be slaves to them either. We want to open borders to new artists and emerging talents, new ways of listening to and enjoying the musical show with a plurality of perspectives and diversity of styles. We have as guest composer the Finnish Kaija Saariaho, a creator of indisputable trajectory, and the Catalan Marc Timón, a very versatile composer who is pursuing a career as a composer of film soundtracks in Los Angeles. As for the female presence, it’s not so much about advocating for gender parity on its own as about being open to supporting talent, whatever the gender. We are excited to be able to bring Barbara Hannigan in her double role as director and singer, but we hope that in the coming years the presence of a woman director or a woman composer will not be an element to stand out for its uniqueness, but become a common fact.
P. For his experience at the forefront of the cycle The First Palace, which this year celebrates its 25 years of history, knows very well the level of the new generations of performers. Do you think one of the “positive” effects of the pandemic has been to give more prominence and visibility to local soloists and groups?
R. It is often said that positive things always emerge from crises and I hope that this crisis will allow the great talent that exists in our country to truly emerge. It’s as important that programmers believe in the talent here and program it in capital letters as getting the audience to trust our bet and start believing in it. There is a sad habit of believing that foreign talent, for the simple fact of being a foreigner, is better, and this is an important remorse that should be shed. If the pandemic contributes to this, we can remember something good about it.
Mercedes Conde, who was part of the Palau Jove del Palau and other groups, lives with great joy the prominence of choral music and the international projection of the Orfeó Català since the arrival of Simon Halsey as artistic director of the choirs of the Palau. And he proudly highlights the double appointment in April and May 2021, first in his stable season in Berlin and then in the Sagrada Familia, with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and its owner, Kirill Petrenko.
P. Is the Orfeó Català living a real golden age?
R. Indeed, the arrival of Simon Halsey as artistic director has led to an obvious leap forward both in the sound quality of the Orfeó Català, the Palau Chamber Choir and the choirs of the Choral School, and in the possibility of establish links with major international formations and directors. To be able to make debut in the stable season of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Berlin in the Philharmonie – the 29 of April of 2021 – with the Coronation Mass of Mozart and under the direction of its owner, Kirill Petrenko, is something that is not within the reach of many. This concert is the anteroom of his media Europa Concert, which will be held at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona on May 1, 2021. And the next day they will perform at the Palau with works by Mozart and Tchaikovsky.