Navigation for Expo Belle Epoque

Catalonia has never forgotten its great medieval past as a wealthy nation in its own right, a major trading power throughout the Mediterranean and a producer of great philosophers and poets. Although it has never regained its independence, it has jealously guarded its sense of difference from the rest of Spain. In the lead-up to the Belle Epoque period which they called Modernista, Catalan intellectuals focused on preserving and celebrating their unique language. Nineteenth century poets such as Jacint Verdaguer helped the resurgence of Catalan literature, in a movement named La Renaixença.

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. Photo: Bernard Gagnon on Wikimedia

Amadeu Vives and his friend, Lluís Millet were both Catalan musicians who worked to revive popular Catalan songs through the choral society they set up, the Orfeó Català. “Between 1891 and 1895, the Orfeó Català spawned no fewer than 145 new choral societies throughout Catalunya. Every provincial town and most large villages took part in this spectacular upsurge of organised communal singing. It became more than a musical hobby: it was a social custom deeply linked to Catalans’ sense of civic and national identity.” (Robert Hughes)

But it’s in architecture that the Modernista movement endures best. You see it all over Barcelona, and not just in the rampant organic forms of Barcelona’s most famous architect, Gaudí. Everywhere you look, buildings in the Modernista style curve and bulge with playful natural forms. They sprout exaggerated Gothic spires or quote styles from other times and places.

This hour is presented by Erica Challis

Casa Batllo Barcelona
La Casa Batlló, Barcelona. Photo: aikijuanma on Flickr


Book cover: Cancons Populars CatalanesGARRETA: Les Iles Medes
supplied by OBC

PEDRELL: La Celestina (1904), Escena V
supplied by OBC

Popular song: La Xava de Sants

TRAD: Els Segadors
Alia Vox 9881

BIZET: Carmen symphony, Habanera
BIS CD 1305

ALBENIZ: Catalonia
supplied by OBC

VIVES: Por el Humo
Philips 432 825

GARRETA: Les Iles Medes
supplied by OBC

VIVES: La Presumida
BBC Legends BBCL 4101

TRAD: El Cant de la Senye

MORERA: Melangia
Channel Classics CCS 13298

MORERA: Dansa No 1
Naxos 8.570457

ALBENIZ:  Mallorca
Naxos 8.570457

Naxos 8.570457

TRAD: Virolai

TRAD: Canco de Bressol
Sony 471772

Sincere thanks to the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona for supplying several recordings for this programme.

Stained glass at Palau de la musica, Barcelona
Stained glass at Palau de la musica, Barcelona. Photo: Paul Stevenson on Flickr

Gallery: Expo Belle Epoque - a visual tour 1880-1914