Pau Casals, one of the greatest cellists of all time and universal Catalan.

pau casalsPau Casals, great cellist, conductor and man.

Pau Casals was one of the 20th century’s greatest cellists, internationally recognized as one of the finest performers and orchestra conductors of his times.

Born in El Vendrell on 29 December 1876, he showed a great sensitivity for music from childhood. His father, himself a musician, taught Pau his first notions of music, which Casals would go on to extend through studies in Barcelona and Madrid. At the tender age of twenty-three, he started out on his professional career and performed in the world’s most famous concert halls. As a performer, he made innovative changes in the way of playing the cello, introducing new technical and expressive possibilities.

As a conductor too, he sought depth of expression – the musical essence which he achieved with the cello. Pau Casals was also a teacher and a composer, writing works such as the oratorio “El Pessebre” (The Manger), which became a veritable hymn to peace. 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.

The outcome of the Spanish Civil War obliged him to go into exile, settling first in Prades (France) and later in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In addition to his extraordinary career as a musician, Pau Casals was always a staunch defender of peace and freedom. His numerous benefit concerts, his commitment to humanitarian actions and his various speeches at the United Nations characterized him clearly as a man of peace.

Pau Casals died in 1973 at the age of ninety-six in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His remains now rest in the cemetery of El Vendrell.

United Nations speech – 1971

Over the course of his life, Pau Casals struggled constantly for peace, justice and freedom. In recognition of his stance, in 1971 the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U-Thant, awarded Pau Casals the U.N. Peace Medal. The speech that Pau Casals gave to express his gratitude for this distinction, and afterwards his performance of “El cant dels ocells” (The Song of the Birds), form one of the most impressive testimonies to his human dimension.

I am a Catalan

Over the course of his life, Pau Casals struggled constantly for peace, justice and freedom. In recognition of his stance, in 1971 the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U-Thant, awarded Pau Casals the U.N. Peace Medal. The speech that Pau Casals gave to express his gratitude for this distinction, and afterwards his performance of “El cant dels ocells” (The Song of the Birds), form one of the most impressive testimonies to his human dimension.

WORDS OF PAU CASALS AT THE UNITED NATIONS – 24 October 1971

This is the greatest honour of my life. Peace has always been my greatest concern. I learnt to love it when I was but a child. When I was a boy, my mother – an exceptional, marvellous woman -, would talk to me about peace, because at that time there were also many wars.

But let me say one thing. I am a Catalan. Today a province of Spain. But what has been Catalonia? Catalonia has been the greatest nation in the world. I will tell you why. Catalonia has had the first parliament, much before England. Catalonia had the beginning of the United Nations. All the authorities of Catalonia in the 11th century met in a city of France, at that time Catalonia, to speak about peace. 11th century! Peace in the world and against, against, against war, the inhumanity of war. This was Catalonia. I am so so happy, so moved to be here, with you.

I have not played the cello in public for many years, but I feel that the time has come to play again. I am going to play a melody from Catalan folklore: El cant dels ocells – The Song of the Birds. Birds sing when they are in the sky, they sing: “Peace, Peace, Peace”, and it is a melody that Bach, Beethoven and all the greats would have admired and loved. What is more, it is born in the soul of my people, Catalonia. 

El cant dels ocells

Chronology

1926
In May he creates the Workers Concerts Association, an independent with the ultimate goal of bringing music closer to the working class.
1931
Pau Casals’ mother, Pilar Defilló, dies at Sant Salvador on 11th March.
The Second Republic is proclaimed in Spain on 15th April.At Barcelona’s National Palace of Montjuïc, Casals conducts Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Orquestra Pau Casals and the Orfeó Gracienc, to celebrate the proclamation of the Republic.
1933
He declines Wilhelm Furtwängler’s invitation to play with the Berlin Philharmonic in the season of 1933. In a letter to Bronislaw Huberman, Pau Casals states his decision not to play again in Germany “for as long as its musical life is not free”.
1934
Together with Albert Schweitzer, he is made Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Edinburgh.
Barcelona pays tribute to Casals, making him an Adoptive Son, awarding him the Medal of the City, and inaugurating the avenue called Avinguda de Pau Casals.
1936
On 28th June, the Orquestra Pau Casals finishes its last season.
On 18th July, during a rehearsal with the Orquestra Pau Casals at the Palau de la Música Catalana, the military uprising begins in Spain.
Despite the situation of instability in Spain and the imminent outbreak of the Civil War, Pau Casals continues to make tours in Europe and South America and to give benefit concerts to raise funds for food, clothing and medicine.
Between 1936 and 1939, Pau Casals records Johann Sebastian Bach’s Six Suites for Solo Cello for the EMI label.
Suit per a cel.lo núm. 1

1938
In February he begins a tour of North Africa.
On 19th October 1938, Pau Casals gives his last concert in Spain, at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, on behalf of the Children’s Aid Society.
1939
At the end of January, after the occupation of Barcelona by General Franco’s troops, Pau Casals goes into exile.
The University of Barcelona makes him Doctor Honoris Causa.
On 28th March, Casals gives a benefit concert for the Spanish refugee children at the Royal Albert Hall, with the London Symphony Orchestra.After a short stay in Paris at the home of Maurice Eisenberg, Casals goes to the Catalan town of Prades and takes up residence in a room of the Grand Hotel, from where he will begin his campaign of aid for the Spanish refugees, together with his friend, the poet Joan Alavedra.
1940
German forces enter Paris on 13th June. Pau Casals, Francesca Capdevila, Pilar Casals and the Alavedra family decide to leave France via Bordeaux aboard the Champlain, sailing for the United States.
Just when the passengers are about to board, the Champlain is bombed by German aircraft and the group decides to return to Prades, where Pau Casals settles with Francesca Capdevila and the Alavedras in Villa Colette.
1943
The poem “El Pessebre” (The Manger) by the Catalan poet Joan Alavedra wins First Prize in the first Floral Games of the Catalan Language in Exile, held in Perpignan. Pau Casals begins to set it to music.
1945
World War II having ended, on 27th June Pau Casals gives a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adrian Boult. At the end of the concert, Pau Casals sends a message to Catalonia from the BBC studios. After a week of concerts in England, Casals decides not to play again in this country in protest against the Allied countries’ immobility with respect to General Franco’s regime.
He turns down Doctorates Honoris Causa from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
1946
On 7th November, Casals is appointed Grand Officer of the French Legion of Honour.
He decides not play again in public as long as the democracies do not change their attitude with respect to the Franco regime, and his second exile in Prades begins. In the next four years he devotes himself to composing, to giving cello lessons and, above all, to helping the Catalan and Spanish refugees.
1950
In May, Casals presides over the Floral Games of the Catalan Language in Exile, held in Perpignan.

At the initiative of Alexander Schneider, on 2nd June begins the first Prades Festival, the Bach Festival, in commemoration of the bicentennial of the great composer’s death.

1951
July marks the holding of the second Prades Festival at the Palace of the Kings of Majorca in Perpignan, featuring the pianist Myra Hess. Marta Montañez attends the festival for the first time.
Casals conducts two of his own compositions in Zurich in September: “Sardana for Cellos” and “Els tres reis” (The Three Kings).
1958
The second Casals Festival of Puerto Rico is held in the spring, with the participation of Pau Casals.
On 24th October, Pau Casals is invited by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, to give a concert at the U.N. General Assembly in New York to commemorate United Nations Day. The concert, together with the peace message that Pau Casals had recorded a few days earlier in Geneva, is broadcast by radio to over 40 countries, turning Casals into a symbol of the struggle for world peace. This year he is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
1961
In April he makes a three-week visit to Japan, where he gives a concert with his pupil Takeichiro Hirai.
In September he visits Israel for the first time, to participate as a member of the jury of the 3rd Pau Casals International Cello Competition and to take part in the 3rd Israel Music Festival.
On 13th November he is invited by John Fitzgerald Kennedy to give a concert at the White House.
El cant dels ocells at the White House.

1967
On 21st October, Pau Casals is invited by the United Nations to conduct “El Pessebre” at the Constitution Hall in Washington D.C., to commemorate United Nations Day. After the concert, Pau Casals meets with president Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House.
At the beginning of November, Casals conducts “El Pessebre” in the Central American city of San Salvador.
Discurs de Casals en el Lincoln Center de New York en el seu 93 aniversari (1969).

1971
Casals receives the Grand Cross of the French National Order of Merit.
He composes the Hymn to the United Nations.
On 24th October, he takes part in the United Nations Day Concerts at the headquarters of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. On this occasion, Pau Casals premieres the Hymn to the United Nations, and he is awarded the U.N. Peace Medal by the U.N. Secretary-General, U-Thant.
1972
On 3rd July Pau Casals and his wife Marta create the Pau Casals Fondation for the purpose of bequeathing to Catalonia the splendid legacy kept by the Maestro at the house in Sant Salvador, El Vendrell.
1973
At the end of September, Pau Casals suffers a heart attack in Puerto Rico. On 22nd October,  dies  in San Juan.
1979
On 9th November the remains of Pau Casals are transferred to Catalonia, where they now rest in the cemetery of El Vendrell.
Casals Tannhauser Evening Star Wagner. Cello and piano.

 

pau casals estatua

Quant a rexval

M'agrada Wagner, l'òpera, la clàssica en general i els cantautors, sobretot Raimon i Llach. M'interessa la política, la història, la filosofia, la literatura, el cinema i l'educació. Crec que la cultura és un bé de primera necessitat que ha d'estar a l'abast de tothom.
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