Casals and Bach’s Cello Suites
About a week ago I got interested in Bach’s cello suites. I started with Rostropovich’s EMI 1995 recording. The sound was beautiful, but the music was bland, entirely not what I expected from Bach as interpreted by Glenn Gould on piano and Jascha Heifetz on violin. Then I listened to Yo Yo Ma, Pablo Casals, and Pierre Fournier. That’s when I discovered Casals for myself. His interpretation and phrasing stand out from the rest and his music is so much livelier and more expressive. For instance, Prelude in Suite No. 1, there is ebb and flow of mood, exaltation of hope, even intense longing. In contrast, Rostropovich’s playing sounds like an incessant fluttering.
A Man of Conviction
In this book, Casals reflects on his life, his parents, the numerous friendships formed over the years, the unfolding of his life and career against the backdrop of the two World Wars and the Spanish Civil War. His mother, a woman of conviction, calm and determination, was a great influence on him, especially in his formative years.
Casals lived his life the same way he played music, with integrity and conviction. He refused to play under a conductor who despised the music. Music is an outflow of his personality. He said that the spirit of Bach is in every note, and he captured it better than anyone else.
At 80, Casals married a woman who was 60 years younger. I was incredulous! But when I looked at their photos, I could see what an extraordinary woman his wife was. She was so gracious and vivacious. And Casals was the same. There was definitely a strong connection between the two. At over 90 years of age, Casals did not feel old at all, as he continued to work, practice on piano and cello everyday, and absorb the beauty of life.