Presentation of the II Gaudí Prizes of Poetry
and Short Narrative 2004

Presentation of the prizes
Wednesday, 19th of May 2004
Ceremony Hall of the “Círculo del Liceu”

Intervention of Mr. Bassegoda

Mr. President of the Sagrada Familia Building Committee, Mr. President of the Círculo del Liceo, Mr. President of the Gaudí & Barcelona Club, ladies and gentlemen and members of the Círculo del Liceo.

I have been asked to talk about Gaudí and the Liceo. Well, let me tell you, they are not related at all. And with these words I could finish my discourse right now. But after some research, there seems to be a moment in which Ràfols, in his book of 1929 of the “Editorial Canosa”, says that when Gaudí was about to finish his studies, as he came from a small village and had no relation with the rich people of Barcelona, he felt by that he wouldn’t find clients, as work is always commissioned by the rich. And so he started to frequent the circles of the high society of Barcelona, attending performances in the “Gran Teatre Liceo”. There’s no evidence he has ever put a foot into the Círculo. Opera didn’t really fit Gaudí’s character. He was a very reserved person, lived an intense interior life and was only concerned about architecture. In his opinion, spectacles never seemed to be real or well-founded. He loved music though. We know he went to listen to the Passion by San Mateo in the Music Palace, directed by Lluís Millet and with the famous Swiss organist and missionary Albert Schweitzer.

It’s very amusing; Gaudí always seemed to have these witty ideas. When the representation of the Passion by San Mateo was finished - which lasted hours - he said to Lluís Millet: “Very well done, my congratulations. But it seems to me that you have changed the score quite a lot, as being written by a Protestant it can’t be good”. In those days, Protestants were called heretics.

I can give you another beautiful anecdote about Gaudí and music. It happened when he was sick in Puigcerdà. He spent the whole summer with Dr. Pere Santaló in Hotel Europa in Puigcerdà because he suffered from “intellectual poverty”; they diagnosed a kind of neurasthenia: he was “depressed”. During his stay, they introduced a young pastor to him, who had a herd cows in the Pirineu. Convinced that Gaudí would be interested in the boy they said: “Look, this boy has made a flute and composed some tunes himself.” Back in Barcelona, they sent the boy to him, who gave him a concert. Gaudí loved it, this virtuousness coming straight from Nature. After the boy’s concert they told him: “Now we’ll take him to the Conservatorio”. And Gaudí answered: “No way! Please don’t destroy him! This kind of naturalness has to be conserved”. This anecdote gives us an idea about the character of Gaudí, who had a direct relation with Nature and drank from the sources without mixing things.

There’s another anecdote, from 1878, but it’s not related to music. It’s about when he designed his own desk on which he put some melted metal appliqués with the shape of insects. And in his cash book, which you can find in the Reus Museum, he explains it: “We put a bell-ringer and the royal grasshopper. The bell-ringer is the Preying Mantis and the royal grasshopper is the dragonfly.” But the names he uses aren’t more or less scientific, but he writes them the way they are known by the country people from the Campo de Tarragona. In other words, he’s always looking for purity. Purity is what he likes and what convinces him.

There has been talked about the kind of music he liked. Whether he liked Wagner or not… I don’t know: he was a contemporary of Rusiñol and, as we know, Rusiñol said that what Gaudí liked most about Wagner were the seven first hours of Parsifal. And then he became some boring. We don’t know. What we do know, I have been told by Mr. Lluís Bonet Garí, who has been director of the Sagrada Familia construction works during many years, is that Gaudí loved a couplet called “El mosquito y la mujer” (1). Finding this couplet implied a lot of work to Mr. Giralt, who, I think, in the end, didn’t succeed. But one day we will find it.

- “Excuse-me, we did find it” – Mr. Giralt says
- “Did you?”
- “We have got the music ánd the song text.”
- “Well, you cold have told me so, man! I have been making myself look foolish in front of everybody! I‘ll give you my card so that you know my telephone to let me know such kind of things. Someone will sing the couplet at the presentation of the prizes next year. We do have a couplet singer, don’t we? There used to be this wine cellar “Bohèmia” right next door, but it seems to me that they have closed it. I still remember those glorious days of Mary Alda and the Great Gilbert… It was situated right there, in calle Lancaster, named after a general captain, if I do remember well. The atelier of the furniture maker who used to be the furniture maker who worked in most of Gaudi’s works was also lying in that street. The atelier of Joan Munné Seraní, is that right? And very near there was the “Sala Mozart”, an interesting hall for the history of music in Barcelona.

What I wanted to say today is that there seems to be no way in which we can seize Gaudí’s relation to music and make conclusions out of it. But each time we see the architect comes closer to music, we can observe this particular talent of his, this way of doing things so differently from his contemporary architects. I mean, all those architects, Doménech i Muntaner, Puig i Cadafalch, they were all so completely different. Gaudí’s atelier in the Sagrada Familia didn’t have anything to do with the studies of others architect’s. An architect usually has a study with a reception desk, a waiting room, the architect’s office, a meeting or conference room… Gaudí worked in this small house of the Sagrada Familia, with plasters of snakes and dragons suspending all over the air. And after all, he barely used his table, because as we all know, he didn’t like drawing. He only used it for making scale models and he did so with his fingers. There’s an interesting picture. The day after Gaudí died on June 10th 1926, the photographer Segarra went to the Sagrada Familia and took a picture of Gaudí’s entire atelier. It’s a pity because we don’t know where Segarra’s archives are. But the pictures of Gaudí’s atelier have been published in the “Gazeta de les Arts”, a magazine directed by Joaquin Folch i Torres. And on these pictures we can see the atmosphere that surrounded Gaudí. As we all know, in the company of Llorenç Matamala Gaudí went to sleep every night in Park Güell. When in 1925 Matamala had to stay home because of a brain haemorrhage -he lived just in front of the Sagrada Familia, in calle Mallorca-, Gaudí left his house in Park Güell behind and spent the nights in the Sagrada Familia. There’s a picture of his bed, a repellent makeshift bed, with a pot underneath it and next to it a table with the plaster scale models. So the first thing he saw when he opened his eyes in the morning was the work he had to continue. His peculiar personality shows us an enormous passion for his profession, as if it were some kind of religion, some kind of priestly office he devoted his soul and body to. The words from Jesus Christ: “If you want to follow me, leave everything behind and come with me”, could be applied to architecture in Gaudí’s case: leave everything behind in order to create architecture. Architecture and nothing else. Because as you all know, Gaudí never got married, never travelled, wrote nor read. Let’s talk about Gaudí’s library. It consisted of three or four books! He had Canigó (2), especially L’Année Liturgique of Dom Guéranger (3), something of Maragall (4) and some more. He wasn’t interested in reading because he had no time for it; he only had time for working and creating new shapes. As he found those shapes in Nature and there are so many, he didn’t have enough hands. He wasn’t familiar with the problem of the composer, painter or writer breaking their head in front of a white sheet of paper. Gaudí’s problem was that he had so many ideas that he didn’t have the physical time to realise them all. And he died at the age of 74; if only he could have lived as long as his father, who had reached the age of 93! Oh my God! But he didn’t only live not long enough, but what’s more, most of his buildings – or part of it – has disappeared. Today I have sent an article to the newspaper about two of his works in 1904. About the perfectly conserved Batlló house and the Mallorca Catedral which first part was inaugurated in December and which is perfectly conserved as well. But all the rest has been lost; the atelier of the brothers Badia in calle Náploles has disappeared. There’s nothing left. The Project for the “Estación de Francia”, with its most revolutionary ideas that chocked the engineers of the MZA Company so much, hasn’t been carried out neither. In short, many of his projects have disappeared. Like the “Chalet d’en Graner”: he only made its door and there’s only one picture left of it. The “Sala Mercè”, which was situated here on the Ramblas, has disappeared as well. It’s a pity, especially if you consider that Gaudí’s work wasn’t really extensive, as he was a perfectionist and never considered anything as finished and always kept on working. And about the works that haven’t disappeared, maybe it would have been better they had, because some of their restorations are a crying shame. But at the end, Gaudí, who will be beatificated, he will arrange it from Heaven bless us all.

Thank you very much for your attention, congratulations to the winners and the organisers and thanks a lot to the Círculo del Liceo for receiving us in their house.

  1. El Gaudí & Barcelona Club has the song text and music of the couplet “El mosquito y la mujer”. But we have no couplet singer yet to perform it. Can you help us to find her? We need your help; please give us some ideas:
  2. Canigó (1886) is an epic poem by Jacint Verdaguer (1845-1902). The Catalan author, priest, poet and friend of Gaudí used to be the highest exponent of “The Renaissance”. Son of a modest farmer’s family, he studied in the seminary of Vic and became priest in 1870. In 1875 and 1876 he was chaplain on the ships of the “Compañía Transatlántica” of marquis of Comillas with whom he started a great friendship.
    La publication of Canigó about the religious origins of Catalonia leaded to the restoration of the Romanic cloister of Ripoll.
  3. Dom Guéranger (1805-1875) was the first abbot of Solesmes (1837) y restaurateur of the order of Benedictines in France. Worried about the little response to liturgy, he wrote “El año litúrgico” (1841-1866), in order to remind the sense and value of the religious ceremonies. He was also responsible of the restoration of the Gregorian melodies, which he considered perfect for oration.
  4. Joan Maragall (1860-1911), Catalan Modernist poet, an important translator of classic, Greek, German, and French authors, author of ideological, cultural and political essays, and collaborator of modernist magazines. Some of his works, in spontaneous style, won the “Juegos Florales” of Barcelona.

[ Top | Back | Homepage ]