There has been much to celebrate in Barcelona this week for musicians of a certain bent. The Medieval and Renaissance Music Society held its annual international conference there, which gave the delegates the opportunity to celebrate the musicologist Bruno Turner’s 80th birthday, as well as the 20th anniversary of the foundation of Musica Reservata Barcelona and the 400th anniversary of the death of the Spanish composer, Victoria. The city may be more associated with architects (Gaudí) and painters (Dalí and Miró) than with musicians, but it knows how to stage a pachanga when the pressure is on. The only disappointment was that Rafael Nadal, who was born in Majorca and so is a Catalan speaker, did not win Wimbledon.
‘Over 200 musicologists from 20 countries have registered for this year’s Conference, which offers over 130 papers; it is the largest musicological conference ever organised in Barcelona.’ Perhaps it is a long shot to claim that these scholars, whose speciality is the arcana of musicological research in the period 0–1600, might brighten the scene in a city famous for cloudless skies and all-night tourist drinking (if you hear Catalan being spoken on the Ramblas at this time of year you are doing well), but they brought with them both poise and humour, not to mention concerts. The 130 papers were delivered with military precision — 20 minutes of material, followed by ten minutes of questions from the floor, and on to the next speaker, four of these sessions happening concurrently. The amount of specialist information being delivered at any one moment was quite mind-boggling.
I was there to direct a concert designed to mark the three anniversaries listed above. Musica Reservata was founded by Jordi Abelló in 1991, in which time they have reliably confounded the popular belief that the Spanish can only sing opera.