More from and about
Pau Casals
(biographical info at bottom of page)

  

Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.

   

For the past eighty years I have started each day in the same manner.  It is not a mechanical routine, but something essential to my daily life.  I go to the piano, and play two preludes and fugues of Bach.  I cannot think of doing otherwise.  It is a sort of benediction on the house.  But that is not its only meaning for me.  It is a rediscovery of the world of which I have the joy of being a part.  It fills me with awareness of the wonder of life, with a feeling of the incredible marvel of being a human being.

      
Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michaelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.
  
Love for one's country is great but why should that love stop at that border?
  
  
Don’t be vain because you happen to have talent. You are not responsible for that; it was not of your doing. What you do with your talent is what matters.
   

Real understanding does not come from what we learn in books; it comes from what we learn from love of nature, of music, of people.  For only what is learned in that way is truly understood.

     

The child must know that he or she is a miracle, that since
the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end
of the world will not be, another child like him or her.

   

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To live is not enough; we must take part.

   

To the whole world you might be just one person,
but to one person you might just be the whole world.

   

Beauty is all about us, but how many are blind! They look at
the wonder of this earth and seem to see nothing. People
move hectically but give little thought to where they are going.
They seek excitement.
. . as if they were lost and desperate.

   
    
The great Spanish cellist (and conductor), Pau Casals (actually, Pau Carlos Salvador Defilló--"Pau" is the Catalan spelling of Pablo), legend has it, supported by Casals himself, that he was conceived when Brahms began his B-flat Major Quartet, of which Casals owned the original manuscript, and that he was born when Brahms completed its composition.  This legend is rendered moot by the fact that the quartet in question was completed and performed before Casals was even born.  But even the ascertainable facts of the life of Casals make it a glorious tale.  His father, the parish organist and choirmaster in Vendrell, gave Casals instruction in piano, violin, and organ. When Casals was 11, he first heard the cello performed by a group of traveling musicians, and decided to study the instrument.  In 1888 his mother took him to Barcelona, where he enrolled in the Escuela Municipal de Música.  There he studied cello with José García, theory with José Rodoreda, and piano with Joaquín Malats and Francisco Costa Llobera.  His progress as a cellist was nothing short of prodigious, and he was able to give a solo recital in Barcelona at the age of 14, on February 23, 1891; he graduated with honors in 1893.

Albéniz, who heard him play in a cafe trio, gave Pau Casals a letter of introduction to Count Morphy, the private secretary to María Cristina, the Queen Regent, in Madrid.  Casals was asked to play at informal concerts in the palace, and was granted a royal stipend for composition study with Tomás Bretón.  In 1893 he entered the Conservatory de Musica y Declamacion in Madrid, where he attended chamber music classes of Jesus de Monasterio.  He also played in the newly organized Quartet Society there (1894-1895).  In 1895 he went to Paris and, deprived of his stipend from Spain, earned a living by playing 2nd cello in the theater orchestra of the Folies Marigny.  He decided to return to Spain, where he received, in 1896, an appointment to the faculty of the Escuela Municipal de Música in Barcelona; he was also principal cellist in the orchestra of the Gran Teatro del Liceo.  In 1897 he appeared as soloist with the Madrid Symphony Orchestra, and was awarded the Order of Carlos III from the Queen.  His career as a cello virtuoso was then assured.

In 1899 Pau Casals played at the Crystal Palace in London, and later for Queen Victoria at her summer residence at Cowes, Isle of Wight.  On November 12, 1899, he appeared as a soloist at a prestigious Lamoureux Concert in Paris, and played with Lamoureux again on December 17, 1899, obtaining exceptional success with both the public and the press. He toured Spain and the Netherlands with the pianist Harold Bauer (1900-1901); then made his first tour of the USA (1901-1902).  In 1903 he made a grand tour of South America.  On January 15, 1904, he was invited to play at the White House for President Theodore Roosevelt.  In 1906 he became associated with the talented young Portuguese cellist Guilhermina Suggia, who studied with him and began to appear in concerts as Mme. P. Casals-Suggia, although they were not legally married.  Their liaison was dissolved in 1912; in 1914 Casals married the American socialite and singer Susan Metcalfe; they were separated in 1928, but did not divorce until 1957.

Continuing his brilliant career, Pau Casals organized, in Paris, a concert trio with the pianist Cortot and the violinist Thibaud; they played concerts together until 1937.  Casals also became interested in conducting, and in 1919 he organized, in Barcelona, the Orquesta Pau Casals 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 never to return to Spain until democracy was restored.  He settled in the French village of Prades, on the Spanish frontier; 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 Franco regime in Spain that he declined to appear in countries that recognized the totalitarian Spanish government, making an 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.

In 1950 Pau Casals resumed his career as conductor and cellist at the Prades Festival, organized in commemoration of the bicentennial of the death of Bach; he continued leading the Prades Festivals until 1966.  He made his permanent residence in 1956, when he settled in San Juan, Puerto Rico (his mother was born there when the island was still under Spanish rule).  In 1957 an annual Festival Casals was inaugurated there.  During all these years, he developed energetic activities as a pedagogue, leading master classes in Switzerland, Italy, Berkeley, California, and Marlboro, Vermont, some of which were televised.

Pau 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 (The Manger) was performed for the first time in Acapulco, Mexico, on December 17, 1960.  One of his last compositions was the Himno a las Naciones Unidas (Hymn of the United Nations); he conducted its first performance in a special concert at the United Nations on October 24, 1971, two months before his 95th birthday.  On August 3, 1957, at the age of 80, Casals married his young pupil Marta Montañez; following his death, she married the pianist Eugene Istomin, on February 15, 1975.  Casals did not live to see the liberation of Spain from the Franco dictatorship, but he was posthumously honored by the
Spanish government under King Juan Carlos I, which issued in 1976 a commemorative postage stamp in honor of his 100th birthday.
  

  

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