Pablo Casals Biography

“I am a very simple man. I am a man first, an artist second. My first obligation is to the welfare of my fellow man. I will endeavour to meet this obligation through music, since it transcends language, politics and national boundaries.” Casals

U .N. Day, October 24, 1971. General Assembnly, New York.
“Don Pablo, you have devoted your life to truth, to beauty and to peace, both as a man and as a artist. You embody the ideals symbolised by this United Nations peace medal. I present it to you with my deep respect and admiration.” - U Thant Secretary-General

“I was born in December 1876 in El Vendrell, a villiage in Catalonia, about 70km from Barcelona. My father, like his father before him, was a Republican and a free mason, a fraternity that only strengthened his convictions on the rights of the working man. My mother was born in Puorto Rico and came to El Vendrell when she was 18. She was a great human being. She taught me early on that the highest love possible was mans own conscience. When one of my brothers was called to serve in the Spanish army, my mother told him: “You do not have to kill anybody, and nobody has to kill you. Go away, and leave the country.” She was an independent thinker and an enormous influence on me.”

“From the beginning of my life, I lived in music. My father was a real musician, but he didn’t have a real musical education. But even so, he played beautifully piano, and his compositions have grace and meaning.”

“I began piano at four, and entered into the choir at five as a second soprano. At seven, I began to play the violin.” “My father didn’t allow me to touch the organ till my feet could reach the pedals, and this moment arrived at nine. Oh I said to my father: “I can touch the pedals!” and he said: “now you can play”. Such a wonderful thing to be able to touch those registers. It was a wonderful organ from the time of Bach.”
“One summer, some travelling clowns came to my little town. One of them had a instrument which I loved. It was a long pipe with one string. I loved that sound, and so my father made me a one string instrument out of a gourd, and with it I played the Ava Marie and it was lovely.”
“Sometime later, three good musicians came for the first time to the village. A pianist, a violinist and a cellist. I had never seen a cello, and it was so wonderful to me. The sound was so profound, so human, and I said to my father: “I want to play the cello.” My father was a very modest man, and he thought that a man can’t make a living being a musician. He spoke to a friend who offered me a job as an apprentice carpenter. My mother opposed. She saw in me the gift of music, and she insisted: “Pablo must be a musician.””

“So we went to Barcelona and I enter in the class of the man (Jose Garcia) who came to El Vendrell and played cello. He was my teacher at the Municipal School. I went to an old store of music. There I discovered the Bach suites, and I was so astonished that Bach had written six suites for the cello alone. I was 12 and a half. I didn’t play a Bach suite in public for 15 years of study.”

“Later I was offered a job at a café, and we used to play all the live music with a rather good pianist and strings. But once a week, I used to play solo. Those were my first concerts. Then a respected trio in Spain came to Barcelona and heard about that boy who played in a Café, and they went to the café  (Albeniz was in the trio). Now Albeniz was so moved to hear a child playing the cello, well, he wanted me to go with him to London where he lived. Although my mother refused his offer, Albeniz sent a letter of recommendation to the count of Morphy.”

“I was in my teens when the first major crisis in my life took place. I was intensely troubled by the continuing differences between my parents about my carreer. The thought that I was the cause of this tension pained me greatly. I walked the streets of Barcelona feeling sick and full of apprehension. I was in a pit of darkness, and I thought that perhaps the only way I could put an end to my torment, was to put an end to my life. It is difficult to say what brought me out of the abyss. Then at about that time, my mother who sensed my despair, proposed me to go to Madrid, take Albeniz’s advice and use his letter of introduction to the count of Morphy.”

“At seventeen, we went to Madrid, and in that occasion, my string quartet was playing and I was presented to the queen Maria Christina. So, next day the queen had allowed me a pension of 250 pesetas a month, which at that time was a big quantity. And so we took an apartment in Madrid. The count of Morphy realised that I did not have a sufficient enough education for a man who would become an artist. So I went every night to study from the books in King Alfonso’s library. Another thing, I had to go every week, once to the Prado museum, and I had to write a report every time about one picture. I had to go once a week to the Parliament, to hear the great orators.”

“The count of Morphy wanted to retain me in Madrid to work with him in the Spanish opera. My mother intervened and said that I was a cellist and I must have a career as a cellist. ”

“I was 23 when I came to Paris at the turn of the century. Paris was the cultural centre of the world, and there I auditioned for Charles Lamoroux the great conductor, who said to me: “You are one of the 11. You will play in my orchestra.” From Paris I began a series of concert tours that were very well received.”

”`In London I was invited to play for the queen. One of my better students was Guilhermina Suggia, she was to become a great cellist. In time my enchantment with her grew deeper and I propose we marry. But our relationship was a tempestuous one, and eventually our marriage fell apart.”

“During off seasons, my home became a salon for my circle of friends. Henri Bergson, Harold Bauer, Camille Saint-Saens, Enrique Granados and George Picquart hero of the Dreyfus case. Alfred Dreyfus had been falsely accused of betraying military secrets simply because he was Jewish, and was convicted for life imprisonment on Devils Island. Picquart with great courage uncovered new evidence that vindicated him. All of this sickened me because an affront to human dignity is an affront to me, and to protest in justice is a matter of conscience.”

“With my friends Alfred Cortot and Jacques Thibaud, we formed a trio. It was a very successful trio, we played everywhere in Europe. In Berlin, I met the famous American soprano Susan Metcalfe. Soon after, we were married. We gave a number of concerts together and I was her accompanist, but we were ill suited for each other, though it was some years before we were divorced.”

“My success in Europe led to many concert tours in America. At the Whitehouse I played for President and Mrs Rouservelt . I often toured in America, and in fact all over the world with Emma Nevada the famous American opera singer of that period. We became very good friends. The halls in the small Western towns in which I played were often loud and boisterous. One day I walked into a saloon, and was soon involved in a poker game with some gun-toting cowboys, and I was winning. I was afraid for a moment that my concert tour might come to an unforeseen conclusion. Finally I was fortunate enough to loose. But it wasn’t the cowboys that caused one of my tours to come to an abrupt end. I was at  Mount Tamalpais near San Francisco hiking when a boulder came hurling down the mountainside and smashed my left hand. When I looked at my mangled bloody fingers, I had a strange reaction. “Thank God I will never have to play again” I said. The fact is that dedication to ones art does involve a sort of enslavement.”

“I was in Paris when the ”

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