GENESIS (1867-1946)

Catalan culture’s interest in “ancient musical instruments” was already evident at the exhibition of “decorative arts” in 1867 in Barcelona and at the 1888 Universal Barcelona Exhibition. Since then the idea of establishing a specific collection of musical instruments was forged and took the form of a proposal by the Museo del Teatro, presented by Marc Jesús Bertran to Barcelona City Council and the Commonwealth of Catalonia in 1912, with a section dedicated to music.

The history of the collections of the Museu de la Música de Barcelona began in the year 1921, when the Municipal Commission for Culture accepted the donation offered by a group of music-loving patricians of Barcelona, in order to launch the project of a new Theatre, Music and Dance Museum.

That first collection soon expanded with new donations and in 1931 the greater part of the holdings went to the Theatre Institute. In 1932, the important collection of antique musical instruments was assigned under deposit to the Barcelona Museum Board. That assignment, promoted by Orsina Baget de Folch, substantially enlarged and enriched the initial collection. It was then that the Museum Board decided to found a small-scale Museum of Musical Instruments, located in what had been a pavilion of the royal residence of the King of Spain in Montjuïc Park from the International Exposition of 1929. Consequently, for the occasion it was called the Albéniz Pavilion, Antique Musical Instrument Museum, in memory of and as a permanent tribute to the great musician, born in the town of Camprodon. (This is the historical legacy behind the fact that this building is still known today as the “Palauet Albéniz”, or Albéniz Palace.)


The advent of the Spanish Civil War brought the project to a halt and it was not until 1946 that Barcelona was to see the birth of the long-awaited Museu de la Música. It was accommodated in the Municipal School of Music on the street Carrer del Bruc in Barcelona, which had become the Higher Conservatory or Conservatori Superior. Accordingly, in a ceremony presided over by the mayor, Miquel Mateu i Pla and the deputy mayor, Tomàs Carreras i Artau, the Museum opened on 29 May 1946 under the direction of the distinguished professor Josep Ricart i Matas.

The decision to accommodate it in the School of Music was based on the Museum’s founding objectives and its scientific and museological approach, considering it to be a complementary tool in the educational task of music classes, a promoter of scientific research among scholars and a means of disseminating music. Indeed, in the words of Tomàs Carreras i Artau, the Museum was to be, “a highly efficient instrument in helping to reconstruct the series and the processes of the musical moments, a matter of the history of music, which cannot in any case be considered apart from the general history of culture or from the particular history of the diverse peoples”.

Notable from the first period of the collection are the donations made by musicians and the rest of the civil society of Barcelona and Catalonia. These donations demonstrated the interest and response that institutions such as ours could arouse: the initial collection of some one hundred instruments tripled in the first three years alone.

In this way, together with the first collections and especially the magnificent Folch i Torres-Baget collection of antique instruments (the final purchase dates from the year 1947), holdings and singular pieces representative of European culture were added. Moreover, the expeditions to far-off cultures and countries which were promoted by the then director of the Ethnological Museum, August Panyella, and Eudald Serra, in the 1950s and 60s, provided a very considerable representation of the cultures of Africa, the Far East and Latin America. In the year 1969, the main collection already comprised 966 instruments. One year later, in 1970, it acquired the Arellano Collection, a very complete holding of phonographs and gramophones.


As a result of the growth of the Conservatory, in 1980 the Museum moved to Casa Quadras, a Modernista (Catalan Art Nouveau) building by the architect Puig i Cadafalch which had been the home of the Baron of Quadras. The Museum displayed its collections, preserving the original structures and all the richness and authenticity of the exuberant Modernista decoration of the main floor. Under the direction of Romà Escalas i Llimona, the official re-inauguration of the Museu de la Música, on 11 February 1983, afforded the possibility of building a more complete museographical discourse and of opening the Museum more widely to the city, starting up a public programming of activities and services addressed to the various publics.

The complete catalogue of the instrument collection was published in 1991 under the technical direction of Romà Escalas. The first catalogue of the Museum presented its over 1,300 instruments in an edition that was praised for its scientific quality. The publication marked a step forward in the normalisation of musical terminology and musical instrument designations, and in the adoption of the most universal criteria of systematised classification of the instrument families. At the same time it represented the explicit recognition of the curators and managers who had played a role in the more than 40 years of the collection’s history. 

In 1996, as the main event of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Museu de la Música, the exhibition “Els nostres luthiers, escultors del so” (Our luthiers, sculptors in sound) was held. It was devoted to the art of instrument-making. Through a specificity of content based on the Museum’s collections, the exhibition presented the figure of the luthier and his art, revindicated as the maker of sound and the unquestioned agent who completes the unique composer-interpreter-luthier cycle in musical creation. It also represented the recognition of the Spanish luthiers by the international collective of experts.

In 2001, the Museu de la Música closed its doors to the public at Casa Quadras in order to prepare its collections for the new museological and museographical project in the Auditori building in Barcelona.


At the beginning of 2007, the Museu de la Música re-opened with its collections newly displayed at the Auditori in Barcelona.

The project of a large area devoted to music in Barcelona dates back to the end of the 1980s, in the context of the re-planning and development of the city’s cultural amenities in the period prior to the 1992 Olympics. In 1999 the great concert hall, headquarters of the OBC, went into operation; in 2005 the Higher School of Music of Catalonia (ESMUC) moved there, and in 2006 the Multi-Purpose Hall and the Chamber Hall opened. The Museu de la Música is the last piece in this ensemble which seeks to bring music nearer to all publics from a cultural and heritage-based standpoint.

The author of the museological project of the new Museu de la Música is Romà Escalas, the Museum’s director, and the museographical part has been the responsibility of architects from Dani Freixes’ office, Lali Gonzàlez and Vicenç Bou, who have broad experience in the architecture of exhibitions and interiors and who have worked in collaboration with Andreu Arriola in areas concerning the adaptation of the building. These people are committed to an innovative Museum concept in which the new audiovisual technologies have an important presence and the collections of musical documents and instruments are explained through acoustic, visual references as well as objects and texts. The aim is to offer broad sectors of the public a sensitive pedagogical experience of music through a panorama extending from its origins and constituent elements to the music of today.

In 2012, Jaume Ayats i Abeyà was appointed director of the museum and remained so until the end of 2020. During these eight years the collections have grown considerably and can now be consulted through the online collections. The museum has hosted major temporary exhibitions such as 'Musical Sculptures', 'Granados, from Paris to Goya' or 'Eolssigu: The sounds of Korea', among others, and has promoted new museographies in external spaces such as 'Voices of the Mediterranean', 'Guitar On/Off' or 'The musics of 1714'. We have been able to hear again the sound of instruments such as the Hauslaib claviorgan, the Lions guitar or the Zumpe & Buntebart square piano, among other restorations. The permanent exhibition has also been renovated with LED lighting, new labels, the interactive guitar table and the interactive 'Conduct the Orchestra, Conduct the Band'. School and family activities have been given a new impetus with the purchase of a gamelan from Bali and a stable gamelan group, Gamelan Penempaan Guntur. We have also incorporated participatory janggu workshops, a Korean percussion ensemble, through collaboration with National Gugak Center in Seoul.

We have developed our own research projects (recordings by Joan Manén, Evans organ) and participated in European projects such as WoodMusICK or the collective catalogue of musical instruments MIMO, which also incorporates Catalan language. The total renovation of the website and the creation of our own social networks has been a commitment to content generation and dialogue with the musical community. 'Pianos for all', a project supported by Barcelona Culture Institute, and the promotion of the collective catalogue CATICAT (Catalogue of Instruments of Catalonia), financed by the Catalan government, are also part of this legacy