Spanish Cellist and Conductor
Pablo Casals, fully Pau Casals i Defilló
Spanish Cellist and Conductor
I am an old man, but in many senses a very young man. And this is what I want you to be, young, young all your life.
The capacity to care is what gives life its most deepest significance.
What do we teach our children? . . . We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique . . . You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything.
I have always regarded manual labor as creative and looked with respect - and, yes, wonder - at people who work with their hands. It seems to me that their creativity is no less than that of a violinist or painter.
The cello is like a beautiful woman who has not grown older but younger with time, more slender, more supple, more graceful.
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?
I have not played the cello in front of an audience since long years but I think I must do it this time. I am going to play a melody from the Catalonian folklore: The singing of the Birds. Birds, when in the sky, go singing: Peace, peace, peace. And this is a melody that Bach, Beethoven and all great people would have admired and loved. And, in addition, it springs up from the soul of my country: Catalonia.
The greatest gypsy violinist of the era played the adagio from Bach's G minor Solo Sonata. It was the most fiery, the freest Bach I have ever heard. Also the best. This gypsy had none of our fears and inhibitions about what to do or not do in Bach. He played uncensored, from the heart.
When Pablo Casals, the cellist, was ninety-one years old, he was approached by a student who asked, "Master, why do you continue to practice?" Casals replied: "Because I am making progress."
I used to think that eighty was a very old age. Now I am ninety. I do not think this anymore. As long as you are able to admire and to love, you are young.
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.
When we play an unaccompanied Bach suite we may compare ourselves to an actor in Shakespeare's day, creating scenery which did not exist at all, through the power of declamation and suggestion. So in Bach. There is but one voice -- and many voices have to be suggested.
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 one's art does involve a sort of enslavement.
The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border? There is a brotherhood among all men. This must be recognized if life is to remain. We must learn the love of man.
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 Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel.
I'm beginning to notice some improvement.
The most important thing in music is what is not in the notes.
In music, in the sea, in a flower, in a leaf, in an act of kindness... I see what people call God in all these things.
These [Bach music for solo cello] suites had been deemed academic rubbish, mechanical studies without musical warmth ? can you imagine that? How could they be considered cold ? these works that positively radiate poetry, warmth and feeling of sound? They are the quintessence of Bach?s work as a composer ? and Bach is the quintessence of all music.
It takes courage for people to listen to their own goodness and act on it.
This is the greatest honor I have ever received in my life. Peace has always been my greatest concern. Yet in my childhood I learned to love it. My mother?an exceptional, brilliant woman ? used to speak to me about it when I was still a child, because in those years there were also a lot of wars. What is more, 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 first United Nations. All the authorities of Catalonia in the Eleventh Century met in a city of France, at that time Catalonia, to speak about peace, at the Eleventh Century. Peace in the world and against, against, against war, the inhumanity of the wars. So I am so happy, so happy, to be with you today. That is why the United Nations, which works solely towards the peace ideal, is in my heart, because anything to do with peace goes straight to my heart.
Bach is the supreme genius of music... This man, who knows everything and feels everything, cannot write one note, however unimportant it may appear, which is anything but transcendent. He has reached the heart of every noble thought, and has done it in the most perfect way.
Love for one's country is great but why should that love stop at that border?
Throughout my career, nervousness and stage-fright have never left me before playing. And each of the thousands of concerts I have played at, I feel as bad as I did the very first time.
Do we dare to be ourselves? This is the question that counts - and not, Must a man be helpless? ... A man can do something for peace without having to jump into politics.