Orfeó Català is one of the country’s leading amateur choirs. Founded more than 125 years ago, in 1891, by Lluís Millet and Amadeu Vives, its purpose was to showcase the Catalan and international choral repertoires, and to ensure the excellence of its performances. Presently, Pablo Larraz is the main conductor, Montse Meneses is the second conductor, and Pau Casan is the pianist. Simon Halsey is still connected to the choir as principal guest conductor and ambassador of Palau de la Música’s choirs. Orfeó Català is based in Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Orfeó Català has performed many of the most significant works within the choral repertoire, including national premieres of such masterpieces as Bach’s Mass in B minor and Haydn’s The Seasons. The choir has sung under the batons of internationally renowned conductors including R. Strauss, C. Saint-Saëns, P. Casals, Z. Mehta, F. Brüggen, M. Rostropovich, Ch. Dutoit, L. Maazel, D. Barenboim, S. Rattle, and G. Dudamel, among others. In recent years, the choir has made its debut at the Vienna Konzerthaus and the Gulbenkian Hall in Lisbon, it has toured Italy with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, conducted by D. Gatti, and it has performed in London on three occasions: in 2015 at the Royal Festival Hall, and in 2017 and 2019 at the Royal Albert Hall, for The Proms. In October 2017, Orfeó Català performed the European premiere of Considering Matthew Shepard by Craig Hella Johnson, conducted by Simon Halsey.
One of the choir’s more recent and most important international commitments was a tour of China in October 2018, as a guest of the Shanghai International Arts Festival, performing four concerts in three cities. During the summer of 2019 (June-July), Orfeó Català toured with Gustavo Dudamel and the Münchner Philharmoniker, together with the Palau’s Cor de Cambra, performing Mahler’s Symphony No.2 at the Palau de la Música Catalana, Madrid, Palma, and Munich. In August 2019, the choir made a second appearance at The Proms in London, together with the Cor Jove de l’Orfeó Català, the London Symphony Chorus, and the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, to perform William Walton’s oratorio Belshazzar’s Feast.
The 2019-20 season featured a new performance of Beethoven’s Christ on the Mount of Olives with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle at the Palau de la Música Catalana. At the start of the 2020-21 season, Orfeó Català, together with the Cor de Cambra del Palau, starred in a new collaboration with Gustavo Dudamel, whom, at the head of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, conducted Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at the Palau de la Música Catalana. In July 2021, Orfeó Català celebrated the centennial of the national premiere of St. Matthew Passion with two extraordinary concerts, with soloists from the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Orquestra Simfònica Camera Musicae, and the Cor Infantil de l’Orfeó Català, all under the baton of Simon Halsey. During the COVID-19 crisis, Orfeó Català continued running rehearsals and performing concerts without a break.
The 2021-22 season featured the performance of Oltra mar by Kaija Saariaho, together with the OBC, conducted by Anna Maria Helsing at the Palau, and the international tour of Puccini’s Messa di Gloria with the Orchestre Philharmonie Luxembourg, conducted by Gustavo Gimeno, at the Palau de la Música Catalana, as well as the Théâtre des Champs Élysées in Paris, and the Philharmonie Luxembourg, with the choir making its debut at these prestigious concert halls.
The highlights of this upcoming 2022-23 season include a tour with the Berliner Philharmoniker (April-May 2023), conducted by Kirill Petrenko, in Berlin (Berliner Philharmonie), Barcelona (Sagrada Família), and Madrid (Teatro Real), with a programme dedicated to W. A. Mozart, and performances of Arvo Pärt’s Berliner Messe at the Palau de la Música Catalana with the Bamberg Symphony, conducted by Jakub Hrůša; of Caroline Shaw’s Music in common time with the Orquestra Simfònica del Vallès, conducted by Marzena Diakun, and with the OBC, with the first performance of a work only for choir by Jörg Widmann, conducted by the composer himself.