As a student I admired Casals from afar, mostly from recordings. The ground-breaking Dvorák Concerto with Szell was a revelation, so was his conducting of Beethoven's Coriolanus Overture with the London Symphony. Later, on Sixth Avenue in New York, I would find his old scratchy thick Columbia l9l5 disks for 5o cents a piece. They displayed very impressive (by now faded) red-white-and-blue banners proclaiming the Grand Prizes won by the Columbia Phonograph Company in Milan, St. Louis, Paris, San Francisco and Buenos Aires, and had Pablo Casals' signature etched in the blank space near the center label of the disk. And the salon morsels they contained: Couperin-Kreisler Chanson Louis XIII & Pavane, Goltermann Cantilena from his A minor Concerto, the Popper Mazurka and much more . . . .
Recording Vintage 1916: Etched signature barely visible above the label
|By the time I gave my first New York recital, Casals had settled in
Puerto Rico. I had been so moved by his recordings of Mendelssohn's "Spring
Song" and his "Song without Words in D Major" that I felt emboldened
to send him a recording of the B Flat Sonata from my concert as a gesture of thanks
and kinship. To my great surprise I received a reply in less than two weeks. It was
warm and generous. Above all, Casals could not resist giving me a mini-lesson in
writing. I shall treasure this simple letter always: . . . "I liked very much
the feeling which you put in the music, also your good en tonation.
I would suggest, nevertheless, that you should try not to swell the notes. . . It was very nice of you to have sent this record ."
Many years later, long after his death, I had two occasions to be touched by Casals' legacy. My wife, violinist Shirley Givens, and I were invited to participate in the Puerto Rico Casals Festival (still continuing to this day). Our contribution was a trio and sonata concert with pianist Samuel Pérez held at the Puerto Rico Conservatory that Casals had founded. I was honored to play the Bach D Minor Suite. (See Violoncello Society Newsletter, Winter l990/91, "The Golden Treasure of San Juan", in The Library - Reading Room.
An even more emotional occasion was a chamber music concert in the salon of Casals' last home on the outskirts of San Juan before an invited audience of the island's musical élite. I have described my feelings elsewhere (in another Violoncello Society Newsletter, Fall l993, "Casals Lives On in Puerto Rico", in The Library - Reading Room). Suffice it to say here that the experience of performing the great Mozart E Flat Divertimento for String Trio while sitting in the great man's chair, in front of his very grand piano, with his features looking down from a portrait on the wall, was quite overwhelming!
HomeHave you missed any part of the The Wall of Fame Gallery:?
Itzhak PerlmanLeonard RoseFrank Sinatra
Michael TippettPablo Casals
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