Spanish Cellist and Conductor
Pablo Casals, fully Pau Casals i Defilló
Spanish Cellist and Conductor
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 I 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 the feeling of the incredible marvel of being a human being. The music is never the same for me, never. Each day it is something new, fantastic and unbelievable. That is Bach, like nature, a miracle!
Of course, I continue to play and to practice. I think I would do so if I lived for another hundred years.
We are not free to walk on our neighbor's toes.
He also will perform the rarely encountered Song of the Birds... It's only about two minutes long, but it's very beautiful. Casals played it many times, but you don't hear it much anymore.
Put aside convention and play as I believe Bach himself played, with great freedom. Play uncensored, from the heart.
We must all work to make this world worthy of its children.
How could anybody think of Bach as 'cold' when these [cello] suites seem to shine with the most glittering kind of poetry? As I got on with the study I discovered a new world of space and beauty... the feelings I experienced were among the purest and most intense in my artistic life!
The art of interpretation is not to play what is written.
We ought to think that we are one of the leaves of a tree, and the tree is all humanity. We cannot live without the others, without the tree.
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 endeavor to meet this obligation through music, since it transcends language, politics and national boundaries.
The art of not playing in tempo--one has to learn it. And the art of not playing what is written on the printed paper.
We should say to each of them [our children]: 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 Michelangelo, 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?
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.