Two world-class classical music artistes are performing on Mallorca in the 2014 edition of the ‘Formentor Sunset Classics’ concert series. The first of the two concerts (July 10th) sees maestro Daniel Barenboim giving a recital of works by Schubert and Chopin, on his own piano – being shipped to Mallorca from La Scala in Milan.
And on September 18th Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will sing with the Balearic Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Robin Stapleton.
The following is an edited version of an article I wrote for a British business travel publication, after attending the second of last year’s concerts.
A cultural history
When Mallorca’s 5-star Hotel Formentor became part of the Barceló hotel group in 2006, any fears that the cultural heritage of the venerable beach-front property might be forgotten proved to be unfounded. This was probably because the global chain has its own long roots on the island. The Barceló family founded their hotel business in Palma de Mallorca in 1931 – two years after the secluded Hotel Formentor had opened in the north of the Spanish island.
Wealthy Argentinian poet Adan Diehl had fallen in love with the rugged Formentor peninsula – the northern tip of the now UNESCO World Heritage Site Tramuntana mountain range – and bought a substantial private estate there from the Costa family. It was where the famous Mallorcan poet Miquel Costa i Llobera wrote ‘Lo Pi de Formentor’ (a Catalan literary classic), and where Diehl built the Hotel Formentor.
Poets and artists from around the world stayed here, finding inspiration in the surrounding landscape. Some 30 years after it opened, the hotel’s cultural connections were strengthened by the creation of the ‘Formentor Awards’ – offering what was then the largest monetary prize of any international literary award.
Maintaining the legacy
After the hotel joined Barceló in 2006, the group’s president Simón Pedro Barceló confirmed that the hotel’s legacy would be maintained: “We are going to take it forward into the future, towards the society of today and the challenges of tomorrow.”
Since then, the ‘Formentor Literary Conversations’ and ‘Formentor Literary Prize’ have been revived. And, in 2012, the Barceló Formentor launched ‘Formentor Sunset Classics’: two concerts featuring world-class conductors and musicians, performing in the Mediterranean gardens of the 122-bedroom hotel.
On a balmy pine-scented Friday evening in September 2013, I was among the 400-strong audience for the second of these concerts. The Indian maestro Zubin Mehta (whose father founded the Bombay Symphony Orchestra) conducted Italy’s prestigious Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, Pastoral, and Symphony No. 3, the Eroica.
Dining under the stars
After the concert ended, we walked through the hotel’s fragrant gardens to the terrace, for a very enjoyable alfresco five-course gala dinner. The spectacular floral centrepiece on each large round table proved to be the perfect conversational ice-breaker for those who didn’t know their fellow guests – many of whom were enjoying a corporate jolly.
My table companions included a Mexican poet and novelist, her Mallorcan composer husband, Joan Valent – the artistic director of the annual August ‘Pollensa Music Festival’ and ‘Formentor Sunset Classics’ collaborator – and a journalist from the UK’s Woman and Home magazine. For our table, at least, the evening’s cultural theme continued after Zubin Mehta had taken his final bow, in front of the appreciative audience.
The successful ‘Formentor Sunset Classics’ series has added a further cultural chapter to the history of a hotel that’s welcomed not only artists, writers, and musicians, but also actors, royalty, politicians, and business tycoons. Agatha Christie, Grace Kelly, Sir Winston Churchill and Grace Kelly are among the many notable guests who have come here to escape the pressures of being in the public eye. They’d be glad to know Mallorca’s grande dame is still in safe hands.
Tickets for the Daniel Barenboim and Kiri Te Kanawa concerts, taking place in the Hotel Barceló Formentor gardens, start at 200 euros. The gala dinner and overnight accommodation are additional options.