December 29, 2016

Today marks 140 years since the birth of Pablo Casals

One great cellist to another: in an archival interview, Rostropovich describes a meeting with his hero.

The full version of this interview with Mstislav Rostropovich can be found in Warner Classics' new 4LP box set of the Bach Cello Suites, Rostropovich's iconic 1991 recording.

Pablo Casals playing the Bach Cello Suites can be heard in The Sound of Pablo Casals collection.

"To my mind the greatest name in cello history is that of Pablo Casals. I had already heard his recordings in friends’ homes in Moscow. Then in 1957 I was invited to attend the Casals Competition in Paris. I was to meet the great man himself beforehand, and he invited me to his hotel in Paris. I came and met this affable man, pipe in mouth, with a bald head – although now I realise that there’s nothing wrong with being bald!

"He embraced me and said: ‘How can I thank you for coming? Let me play for you’. He was only a couple of feet away from me – not a bit nervous about playing for me, but here he was with his bow and cello so close to me that my hands and legs started to tremble from sheer agitation because of the veneration in which I held this greatest of artists.

"He started to play the Allemande from the First Suite. His playing
had an incredibly powerful effect on me. It was a rhapsodic interpretation of Bach, I’d say, like a dialogue, keenly aware phrase-by-phrase of the listener’s reaction. When Casals played it seemed to me impossible to interpret Bach in any other way, such was the force of his personality and his nature as an artist, his total conviction in what he was doing. Therefore no copy can be authentic. A copy cannot reflect your own feelings or your own sense of phrasing, and is like a bottle without any wine in it.

"Casals played a great part in my life and in my love of Bach and music in general." -Rostropovich