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Pablo Casals

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Title: Pablo Casals  
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Collection: 1876 Births, 1973 Deaths, 19Th-Century Classical Composers, 20Th-Century Classical Composers, Bach Conductors, Catalan Classical Cellists, Catalan Composers, Exiles of the Spanish Civil War, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winners, Grand Officiers of the Légion D'Honneur, Honorary Members of the Royal Philharmonic Society, Madrid Royal Conservatory Alumni, People from Baix Penedès, People from El Masnou, Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medallists, Spanish Classical Cellists, Spanish Classical Composers, Spanish Expatriates in Puerto Rico, Spanish Male Classical Composers, Spanish Music Educators
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Pablo Casals

Casals, c. 1910s–1920s

Pau Casals i Defilló (Catalan: ; December 29, 1876 – October 22, 1973), known during his professional career as Pablo Casals,[1][2][3] was a Spanish Catalan cellist and conductor. He is generally regarded as the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest cellists of all time. He made many recordings throughout his career, of solo, chamber, and orchestral music, also as conductor, but he is perhaps best remembered for the recordings of the Bach Cello Suites he made from 1936 to 1939.


  • Biography 1
    • Childhood and early years 1.1
    • Youth and studies 1.2
    • International career 1.3
      • Prades Festivals 1.3.1
      • Puerto Rico 1.3.2
    • Later years 1.4
    • Death 1.5
  • Legacy 2
  • Partial discography 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


Childhood and early years

Casals was born in gourd as a sound-box. When Casals was eleven, he first heard the real cello performed by a group of traveling musicians, and decided to dedicate himself to the instrument.

In 1888 his mother, Pilar Defilló de Casals, who was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico of Catalonian ancestry, took him to Barcelona, where he enrolled in the Escola Municipal de Música.[4] There he studied cello, theory, and piano. In 1890, when he was 13, he discovered in a second-hand sheet music store in Barcelona a tattered copy of Bach's six cello suites. He spent the next 13 years practicing them every day before he would perform them in public for the first time.[5] Casals would later make his own version of the six suites.[6] He made prodigious progress as a cellist; on February 23, 1891 he gave a solo recital in Barcelona at the age of fourteen. He graduated from the Escola with honours five years later.

Youth and studies

A young Pablo Casals seen by Ramon Casas (MNAC)

In 1893, Catalan composer Isaac Albéniz heard him playing in a trio in a café and gave him a letter of introduction to the Count Guillermo Morphy, the private secretary to María Cristina, the Queen Regent. Casals was asked to play at informal concerts in the palace, and was granted a royal stipend to study composition at the Real Conservatorio de Música y Declamación in Madrid with Víctor Mirecki. He also played in the newly organized Quartet Society.

In 1895 he went to Paris, where, having lost his stipend from Catalonia, he earned a living by playing second cello in the theater orchestra of the Folies Marigny. In 1896, he returned to Catalonia and received an appointment to the faculty of the Escola Municipal de Música in Barcelona. He was also appointed principal cellist in the orchestra of Barcelona's opera house, the Liceu. In 1897 he appeared as soloist with the Madrid Symphony Orchestra, and was awarded the Order of Carlos III from the Queen.

International career

In 1899, Casals played at The Crystal Palace in London, and later for Queen Victoria at Osborne House, her summer residence, accompanied by Ernest Walker. On November 12, and December 17, 1899, he appeared as a soloist at Lamoureux Concerts in Paris, to great public and critical acclaim. He toured Spain and the Netherlands with the pianist Harold Bauer in 1900–1901; in 1901–1902 he made his first tour of the United States; and in 1903 toured South America.

On January 15, 1904, Casals was invited to play at the White House for President Theodore Roosevelt. On March 9, of that year he made his debut at Carnegie Hall in New York, playing Richard Strauss's Don Quixote under the baton of the composer. In 1906 he became associated with the talented young Portuguese cellist Guilhermina Suggia,[7] who studied with him and began to appear in concerts as Mme. P. Casals-Suggia, although they were not legally married. Their relationship ended in 1912.

The New York Times of April 9, 1911, announced that Casals would perform at the London Musical Festival to be held at the Queen's Hall on the second day of the Festival (May 23). The piece chosen was Haydn's Cello Concerto in D and Casals would later join Fritz Kreisler for Brahms's Double Concerto for Violin and Cello.[2]

In 1914 Casals married the American socialite and singer Susan Metcalfe; they were separated in 1928, but did not divorce until 1957.

Although Casals made his first recordings in 1915 (a series for Columbia), he would not release another recording until 1926 (on the Victor label).[3]

Back in Paris, Casals organized a trio with the pianist Pau Casals Orchestra and led its first concert on October 13, 1920. With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, the Orquesta Pau Casals ceased its activities.

Casals was an ardent supporter of the Spanish Republican government, and after its defeat vowed not to return to Spain until democracy was restored. Casals performed at the Gran Teatre del Liceu on October 19, 1938, possibly his last performance in Catalonia before his exile.[8]

Presidential Medal of Freedom

He settled in the French Catalan village of Prada de Conflent, near the Spanish Catalan border; between 1939 and 1942 he made sporadic appearances as a cellist in the unoccupied zone of southern France and in Switzerland. So fierce was his opposition to the dictatorial regime of Francisco Franco in Spain that he refused to appear in countries that recognized the authoritarian Spanish government. He made a notable exception when he took part in a concert of chamber music in the White House on November 13, 1961, at the invitation of President John F. Kennedy, whom he admired. On December 6, 1963, Casals was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.[9]

Throughout most of his professional career, he played on a cello that was labeled and attributed to "Carlo Tononi ... 1733" but after he had been playing it for 50 years it was discovered to have been created by the Venetian luthier Matteo Goffriller around 1700. It was acquired by Casals in 1913.[10] He also played another cello by Goffriller dated 1710, and a Tononi from 1730.

Prades Festivals

In 1950 he resumed his career as conductor and cellist at the Johann Sebastian Bach; Casals agreed to participate on condition that all proceeds were to go to a refugee hospital in nearby Perpignan.[3]

In 1952, Casals met Marta Angélica Montañez y Martinez, a 15-year-old Puerto Rican student who had gone to Spain to participate in the Festival. Casals was very impressed with her and encouraged her to return to Mannes College of Music in New York to continue her studies. He continued leading the Prades Festivals until 1966.

Puerto Rico

Casals traveled extensively to Puerto Rico in 1955, inaugurating the annual Casals Festival the next year. In 1955 Casals married as his second wife long-time associate Francesca Vidal de Capdevila, who died that same year. In 1957, at age 80, Casals married 20-year-old Marta Montañez y Martinez.[11] He is said to have dismissed concerns that marriage to someone 60 years his junior might be hazardous to his health by saying, "I look at it this way: if she dies, she dies."[12][13] Pablo and Marta made their permanent residence in the town of Ceiba, and lived in a house called "El Pessebre" (The Manger).[14] He made an impact in the Puerto Rican music scene, by founding the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra in 1958, and the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico in 1959.

Later years

Casals appeared in the 1958 documentary film Windjammer. In the 1960s, Casals gave many master classes throughout the world in places such as Gstaad, Zermatt, Tuscany, Berkeley, and Marlboro (where he also conducted and recorded unique versions of the six Brandenburg Concerti). Several of these master classes were televised.

In 1961, he performed at the White House by invitation of President Kennedy. This performance was recorded and released as an album.

Casals was also a composer. Perhaps his most effective work is La Sardana, for an ensemble of cellos, which he composed in 1926. His oratorio El Pessebre was performed for the first time in Acapulco, Mexico, on December 17, 1960. He also presented it to the United Nations during their anniversary in 1963. He was initiated as an honorary member of the Epsilon Iota Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity at The Florida State University in 1963.[15] He was later awarded the fraternity's Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award in 1973.

One of his last compositions was the "Hymn of the United Nations".[16] He conducted its first performance in a special concert at the United Nations on October 24, 1971, two months before his 95th birthday. On that day, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, awarded Pablo Casals the U.N. Peace Medal in recognition of his stance for peace, justice and freedom.[17] Casals accepted the medal and made his famous "I am a Catalan" speech,[18] where he stated that Catalonia had the first democratic parliament, long before England did.

In 1973, invited by his friend Isaac Stern, Casals arrived at Jerusalem to conduct the youth orchestra and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. The concert he conducted with the youth orchestra at the Jerusalem Khan Theater was the last concert he conducted in his life.[19]

Casals' memoirs were taken down by Albert E. Kahn, and published as Joys and Sorrows: Pablo Casals, His Own Story (1970).


Casals died in 1973 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the age of 96 and was buried at the Puerto Rico National Cemetery. He did not live to see the end of the Franco dictatorial regime, but he was posthumously honoured by the Spanish government under King Juan Carlos I which in 1976 issued a commemorative postage stamp depicting Casals, in honour of the centenary of his birth.[20] In 1979 his remains were interred in his hometown of El Vendrell, Catalonia. In 1989, Casals was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.[21]


Centenary statue, by Josep Viladomat Montserrat

The southern part of the highway C-32 in Catalonia is named Autopista de Pau Casals.

The International Pablo Casals Cello Competition is held in Kronberg and Frankfurt am Main, Germany, under the auspices of the Kronberg Academy once every four years, starting in 2000, to discover and further the careers of the future cello elite, and is supported by the Pau Casals Foundation, under the patronage of Marta Casals Istomin. One of the prizes is the use of one of the Gofriller cellos owned by Casals. The first top prize was awarded in 2000 to Claudio Bohórquez.

American comedian Archive of American Television, refers to Casals when discussing the restless nature of an artist's persona. As Carlin states, when Casals (then aged 93) was asked why he continued to practice the cello three hours a day, Casals replied, "'I'm beginning to notice some improvement...' [A]nd that's the thing that's in me. I notice myself getting better at this," Carlin continued.

In Puerto Rico, the Casals Festival is still celebrated annually. There is also a museum dedicated to the life of Casals located in Old San Juan. On October 3, 2009, Sala Sinfonica Pablo Casals, a symphony hall named in Casals' honor, opened in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The $34 million building, designed by Rodolfo Fernandez, is the latest addition to the Centro de Bellas Artes complex. It is the new home of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra.

In Tokyo, the Casals Hall opened in 1987 as a venue for chamber music.[22] Pablo Casals Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois, USA is named in his honor.[23]

Casals' motet O vos omnes, composed in 1932, is frequently performed today.

Partial discography

Pablo Casals bust, Wolfenbüttel, Germany
  • 1926–1928: Casals, Jacques Thibaud and Alfred Cortot – the first trios of Schubert, Schumann and Mendelssohn, the Beethoven Archduke, Haydn's G major and Beethoven's Kakadu Variations (recorded in London)
  • 1929, Brahms: Double Concerto with Thibaud and Cortot conducting Casals' own orchestra.
  • 1929: Dvorak and Brahms Concerti
  • 1929: Beethoven: Fourth Symphony (Recorded in Barcelona)
  • 1930: Beethoven: Cello Sonata Op. 69, with Otto Schulhof (de)
  • 1936–1939: Bach: Cello Suites
  • 1936: Beethoven: Cello Sonata Op. 102 No. 1; and Brahms: Cello Sonata Op. 99, both with Mieczysław Horszowski.
  • 1936: Boccherini: Cello Concerto in B-flat; and Bruch: Kol Nidrei – London Symphony conducted by Landon Ronald.
  • 1937: Dvořák: Cello Concerto – Czech Philharmonic conducted by George Szell.
  • 1939: Beethoven: Cello Sonatas Nos. 1, 2, and 5, with Mieczysław Horszowski.
  • 1945: Elgar and Haydn Cello Concertos – BBC Symphony conducted by Sir Adrian Boult.
  • 1950: The first of the Prades Festival recordings on Columbia, including:
    • Bach: Sonatas for Viola da Gamba, BWV 1027–1029, with Paul Baumgartner
    • Schumann: Fünf Stücke im Volkston, with Leopold Mannes
    • Schumann: Cello Concerto, with Casals conducting from the cello.
  • 1951: At the Perpignan Festival, including:
    • Beethoven: Cello Sonata Op. 5 No. 2, and three sets of Variations, with Rudolf Serkin
    • Beethoven: Trios, Op. 1 No. 2, Op. 70 No. 2, Op. 97, and the Clarinet Op. 11 transcription; also
    • Schubert: Trio No. 1, D.898, all with Alexander Schneider and Eugene Istomin.
  • 1952: At Prades, including:
  • 1953: At Prades, including:
    • Beethoven: Cello Sonatas Nos. 1, 3, 4, and 5, with Rudolf Serkin
    • Beethoven: Trios Op. 1 No. 1, and Op. 70 No. 1, with Joseph Fuchs and Eugene Istomin
    • Schumann: Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129, with Eugene Ormandy conducting the Festival orchestra
  • 1954: At Prades (all live performances), including:
    • Beethoven: Cello Sonata No. 5, and Op. 66 Variations, with Mieczysław Horszowski
    • Beethoven: Trios Op. 70 No. 1, and Op. 121a, with Szymon Goldberg and Rudolf Serkin
  • 1955: At Prades (all live performances), including:
    • Brahms: Trios Nos. 1–3, with Yehudi Menuhin and Eugene Istomin
    • Brahms: Clarinet Trio Op. 114, with clarinetist David Oppenheim and Eugene Istomin
    • Beethoven: Trio Op. 70 No. 2, with Szymon Goldberg and Rudolf Serkin
  • 1956: At Prades (all live performances), including:
    • Bach: Sonata BWV 1027 for Viola da Gamba, with Mieczysław Horszowski
    • Schumann: Trio No. 2, with Yehudi Menuhin and Mieczysław Horszowski
    • Schumann: Trio No. 3, with Sándor Végh and Rudolf Serkin
  • 1958: At Beethoven-Haus in Bonn (all live performances), including:
    • Beethoven: Sonata Op. 5 No. 1, with Wilhelm Kempff
    • Beethoven: Sonatas Op. 5 No. 2, Op. 102 No. 2, and the Horn Op. 17 transcription, with Mieczysław Horszowski
    • Beethoven: Trios Op. 1 No. 3, and Op. 97, with Sándor Végh and Mieczysław Horszowski
    • Beethoven: Trio Op. 70 No. 1, with Sándor Végh and Karl Engel
  • 1959: At Prades (all live performances), including:
  • 1961: Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No. 1 with Alexander Schneider and Mieczysław Horszowski (Recorded live November 13, 1961 at the White House)
  • 1963: Beethoven: Eighth Symphony
  • 1963: Mendelssohn: Fourth Symphony, at Marlboro
  • 1964–65: Bach: Brandenburg Concerti, at Marlboro
  • 1966: Bach: Orchestral Suites, at Marlboro
  • 1969: Beethoven: First, Second, Fourth, Sixth ("Pastorale"), and Seventh Symphonies
  • 1974: El Pessebre (The Manger) oratorio


  1. ^ EMI official web site
  2. ^ a b Honors To Be Conferred On English Composers: Series of Concerts Devoted to modern Englishmen to be Given in London, The New York Times, 1911-04-09, retrieved 2009-08-01
  3. ^ a b c "Pablo Casals – the Musician and the Man"
  4. ^ "Proyecto de Recuperación de la Casa Defilló" (in Spanish). Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña. Retrieved 2007-01-25. 
  5. ^ Eric Siblin,The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece. Atlantic; 336 pages, 2010
  6. ^ Ovation Press Editors: Pablo Casals
  7. ^ Mercier, Anita Guilhermina Suggia, retrieved 2009-08-01
  8. ^ Abella, Rafael La vida cotidiana durante la guerra civil: la España republicana p. 422 (published by Editorial Planeta, 1975)
  9. ^ Chronological List of Medal of Freedom at the Wayback Machine (archived October 18, 2007), retrieved 2009-08-01
  10. ^ "Cello by Matteo Goffriller, 1700c (ex-Casals)". Cozio. Retrieved 2007-01-22. 
  11. ^ "Master cellist Pablo Casal marries 21-year-old pupil". The News and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina). 5 August 1957. 
  12. ^ Gardner, Jasmine (20 March 2012). "Julian Lloyd Webber talks music and marriage". London Evening Standard. 
  13. ^ Amis, John (6 February 1993). "Master of the Cello: Pablo Casals". The Tablet. 
  14. ^ Festival Casals de Puerto Rico: Historia, retrieved 2009-08-01 (Spanish)
  15. ^ December 2002The Sinfonian
  16. ^ United Nations – Fact Sheet # 9: "Does the UN have a hymn or national anthem?"
  17. ^ Pau Casals Foundation, United Nations Peace Medal
  18. ^ Video of Pablo Casals "I am a catalan" speech, 1971 on YouTube
  19. ^ Casals last performance in life in Jerusalem
  20. ^ El País/Sociedad Estatal de Correos y Telegrafos 2003
  21. ^ Lifetime Achievement Award, Grammy Award official web site, retrieved 2009-08-01.
  22. ^ "Casals Hall".  
  23. ^ "Pablo Casals Elementary School" Chicago Public Schools. Retrieved 28 July 2013.

Further reading

  • Pablo Casals, Robert Baldock, Northeastern University Press, Boston (1992), ISBN 1-55553-176-8
  • Pablo Casals, a Biography, H. L. Kirk, Holt Rinehart and Winston, New York (1974), ISBN 0-03-007616-1
  • Conversations with Casals. With an Introduction by Pablo Casals. With an Appreciation by Thomas Mann, J. Ma. Corredor, E. P. Dutton, New York (1957)
  • Joys and Sorrows; Reflections by Pablo Casals as Told to Albert E. Kahn, Pablo Casals, Simon and Schuster, New York (1973) ISBN 0-671-20485-8
  • Pablo Casals, Lillian Littlehales, W. W. Norton, New York (1929)
  • Song of the Birds. Sayings, Stories and Impressions of Pablo Casals, Compiled, Edited and with a Foreword by Julian Lloyd Webber, Robson Books, London (1985). ISBN 0-86051-305-X
  • Just Play Naturally. An Account of Her Study with Pablo Casals in the 1950s and Her Discovery of the Resonance between His Teaching and the Principles of the Alexander Technique, Vivien Mackie (in Conversation with Joe Armstrong), Boston-London 1984–2000, Duende Edition(2006). ISBN 1-4257-0869-2.
  • Arnold Schoenberg Correspondence. A Collection of Translated and Annotated Letters Exchanged with Guido Adler, Pablo Casals, Emanuel Feuermann, and Olin Downes, Egbert M. Ennulat, The Scarecrow Press, Metuchen (1991). ISBN 0-8108-2452-3
  • The Memoirs of Pablo Casals, Pablo Casals as Told to Thomas Dozier, Life en Espanol, New York (1959).
  • Cellist in Exile. A Portrait of Pablo Casals, Bernard Taper, McGraw-Hill, New York (1962).
  • Casals, Photographed by Fritz Henle, American Photographic Book Publishing Co., Garden City (1975). ISBN 0-8174-0593-3.
  • Virtuoso, Harvey Sachs, Thames and Hudson, New York (1982), chapter six, pp. 129–151 is devoted to Pablo Casals. ISBN 0-500-01286-5.

External links

  • Pau Casals Foundation
  • Pablo Casals' home town of El Vendrell
  • Casals Festival, San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Festival Casals de Prades Prades, Pyrénées-Orientales, France
  • Pablo Casals at AllMusic
  • Discography and bibliography
  • Trio with Alfred Cortot and Jacques Thibaud – Performances records, Recordings and discography (Youngrok Lee's Classical Music page)
  • 26-minute video report of Casals in Prades
  • Interview with Marta Casals Istomin June 16, 2012, Wigmore Hall
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