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The Sound of Pablo Casals


Release Date: 02/05/2013 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 780032   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Antonín DvorákSir Edward ElgarMax BruchFranz Schubert,   ... 
Performer:  Pablo CasalsAlfred CortotJacques ThibaudOtto Schulhof
Conductor:  George SzellSir Adrian BoultLandon RonaldPablo Casals
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic OrchestraBBC Symphony OrchestraLondon Symphony Orchestra,   ... 
Number of Discs: 4 
Recorded in: Mono 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Pablo Casals, the greatest cellist of the early 20th century, is renowned for the inimitably beautiful timbre and expressive range of his playing. This extensive collection brings together his classic interpretations of the Elgar and Dvorak cello concertos, and the Bach Cello Suites along with a variety of suites, chamber works, national Catalonian dances and other showpieces.

Reviews of some of the original recordings that make up this set:

It scarcely seems necessary to write anything further about Casals's famous recordings of the Dvorák and Elgar concertos, which have long been recognized as classics of the recorded repertoire. The former, hailed in Grove V as "destined to mark a
Read more standard for generations" and described at the time as "seemingly played with a sword rather than a bow", still exercises a powerful effect: the incandescent solo playing is so mesmeric that one can accept the rather harsh and dry orchestral sound which betrays its age (from 1937). Some of Casals's passionate quality may have been due to his decision to break Out of his self-imposed restricted activities caused by the Spanish civil war: the astute Fred Gaisberg, hearing that he had consented to appear with Szell in Prague, swung into action and talked them into making a recording the day after the concert. Casals allowed himself to be persuaded the more readily since the only concertos he had previously recorded were the Boccherini/Grützmacher and the Brahms Double with his old friend Thibaud. Kol nidrei had been a fill-up to that Boccherini issue: it is a quietly eloquent, broad reading of this meditation, adroitly accompanied by Sir Landon Ronald (under whom, incidentally, nearly 30 years earlier the 11-year-old Szell had made his pianistic debut in London).

About Casals's Elgar there has always been controversy: his reading was heavily criticized as over-emotional ('un-English') when he first played it in London before the war; but when he returned in 1945 and performed it, according to Boult, in exactly the same way, it was said that "in the deeply meditative sections . . . it reached an Elgarian mood of wistfulness that few artists understand". Desmond Shawe-Taylor, however, sticking to his guns, felt that despite the splendid tone and passages of magnificent playing "the long winding pastoral theme in the first movement is pulled clean out of shape . . . it never flows at all.. . Over the whole there hangs a heavy cloak of sentimentality". In the light of subsequent performances by other famous cellists this raises an interesting point for discussion, from which I prudently excuse myself. You should certainly hear this for yourself.

-- Gramophone [8/1990]

"There can be few classical music lovers who are not familiar with the true fairy-story in which, in 1890, the thirteen-year-old Pablo Casals, newly enamoured of the cello and foraging with his father in the back-street music-shops of Barcelona, happened across the Grützmacher’s edition of Bach's lost "Cello Suites" on a dusty shelf. Prodigiously talented, Casals was already studying by day in the Escola Municipal de Música and moonlighting in a café trio; the re-discovery of Bach’s neglected suites changed both his life and the course of twentieth century music for good.

He practised them assiduously for another thirteen years before finally feeling able to perform them in public. To do so, he had to evolve new techniques and arrive at an understanding of this remarkable music. He came to espouse a philosophy of performance based upon the principle that no matter how abstracted, stylised and removed this music had become, it was still essentially the music of dance and as such required the performer to invest it with a Terpsichorean vigour, vitality, elegance and grace. It was another quarter of a century before he could be persuaded by EMI to record them.

Casals released these suites from the fate of many a Bach masterpiece over two hundred years, of being considered a dry, technical exercise of no particular value beyond its use as practice fodder to engender facility and flexibility. Such was Casals’ emotional investment in this music that he found performing and recording them physically exhausting - though in later years he would willingly perform from them for grateful visitors such as Rostropovich. The recordings here were made two at a time, first at Abbey Road, then in Paris between 1936 and 1939; it must surely have been an additional emotional spur to Casals, fierce Republican and champion of liberty, that they coincided with the ghastly events of the Spanish Civil War.

We do not know exactly when Bach composed these suites but they were probably completed at Cöthen by about 1720. We are not sure for whom they were written, but he was evidently a cellist of surpassing skill; possibly court musicians Abel or Linigke, or even Prince Leopold himself. The original manuscript is lost but we have two unreliable copies made in Bach’s lifetime, one made in 1730 by his second wife, Anna Magdalena. We therefore have no guidance from the composer regarding performance practice and there are further mysteries and peculiarities, such as the fact that the fifth suite requires scordatura - the tuning down of the A string to G, to make some chords easier to play - and the sixth seems to have been written for a five-string cello or viola da gamba, with an E string added above the A to accommodate the very high passages. Many cellists find other approaches in no. 5, avoiding the intonation problems associated with retuning, and some play the sixth on a different instrument; others make adjustments to play it on the normal four-string cello. Most simply concoct their own performing edition; it seems to work.

In the end, these are “just” unaccompanied dance suites. The richness of the result is partly the result of Bach’s ability to suggest a multiplicity of lines and voices which continue to sing in the “mind’s ear” of the performer and listener. Registers and tempi and dynamics alternate in bewitching fashion and there are is always more - heard and unheard - going on than at first appears.

Listening to these miraculously preserved and restored recordings by Casals, I am immediately struck by the sheer life-enhancing energy and attack of his bowing. No pusillanimous playing safe here; the performances leap out of the speakers as if they were recorded last month, not over seventy years ago. These are the First Folio, the Urtext, the paradigm of performances, and it would be a brave man who would dare to disparage them...Just as Caruso’s voice emerged more cleanly than any other singer from the acoustic recording process, Casals’ cello survives the recording technology of his day better than any other solo instrument; it really is not much of an issue to anyone with willing ears. He did not produce an especially voluptuous tone, but the steel in it suits his more strenuous temperament and the sense of striving after music unheard that his engagement with Bach suggests. The groanings of his instrument in its lowest reaches are like birth-pangs; a wondrous, complex creature is born. The febrile brilliance of Starker, the austere classicism of Fournier and the volatile idiosyncrasy of Rostropovich are all supremely viable and rewarding, but the humanity of Casals’ recording reinforces its claim as an essential supplement - if you will excuse the oxymoron - to a modern recording.

-- Ralph Moore, MusicWeb International " Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Cello in B minor, Op. 104/B 191 by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Pablo Casals (Cello)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894-1895; USA 
Date of Recording: 1937 
2.
Concerto for Cello in E minor, Op. 85 by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Pablo Casals (Cello)
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1919; England 
Date of Recording: 1945 
3.
Kol Nidrei for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 47 by Max Bruch
Performer:  Pablo Casals (Cello)
Conductor:  Landon Ronald
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1881; Liverpool, England 
Date of Recording: 1936 
4.
Trio for Piano and Strings no 1 in B flat major, D 898/Op. 99 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano), Jacques Thibaud (Violin), Pablo Casals (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1828; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 07/1926 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 31 Minutes 12 Secs. 
5.
Trio for Piano and Strings no 7 in B flat major, Op. 97 "Archduke" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Pablo Casals (Cello), Alfred Cortot (Piano), Jacques Thibaud (Violin)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1810-1811; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1928 
Venue:  Small Queen's Hall, London, England 
Length: 36 Minutes 9 Secs. 
6.
Variations (7) for Cello and Piano on Mozart's "Bei Männern", WoO 46 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano), Pablo Casals (Cello)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801; Vienna, Austria 
7.
Suite for Cello solo no 1 in G major, BWV 1007 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Pablo Casals (Cello)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 1938 
Venue:  Paris 
8.
Suite for Cello solo no 5 in C minor, BWV 1011 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Pablo Casals (Cello)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 1939 
Venue:  Paris 
9.
Suite for Cello solo no 6 in D major, BWV 1012 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Pablo Casals (Cello)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 1938 
Venue:  Paris 
10.
Tonadilla by Blas de Laserna
Performer:  Pablo Casals (Cello)
Period: Classical 
11.
Concerto for 2 Violins and Cello in D minor, Op. 3 no 11/RV 565: Largo by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Pablo Casals (Cello)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1711; Venice, Italy 
12.
Tale of Tsar Saltan: Suite, Op. 57 - Flight of the bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Performer:  Pablo Casals (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903; Russia 
13.
Suite for Orchestra no 3 in D major, BWV 1068: Air by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Pablo Casals (Cello)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1729-1731; Leipzig, Germany 
14.
Sonata for Cello and Piano no 10 in E major: Gavotte by Giuseppe Valentini
Performer:  Pablo Casals (Cello)
Period: Baroque 
15.
Zigeunermelodien (7), Op. 55: no 4, Als die alte Mutter by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Pablo Casals (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Bohemia 
16.
Dubte by Manel Saderra
Conductor:  Pablo Casals
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cobla "La Principal de Gerona"
17.
Innominada by Julio Garreta
Conductor:  Pablo Casals
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cobla "La Principal de Gerona"
18.
La Rosada by Julio Garreta
Conductor:  Pablo Casals
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cobla "La Principal de Gerona"
19.
Tarragona by Enrique Casals
Conductor:  Pablo Casals
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cobla "La Principal de Gerona"
Period: 20th Century 
20.
Lluny by Enrique Casals
Conductor:  Pablo Casals
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cobla "La Principal de Gerona"
Period: 20th Century 
21.
Festivola by Pablo Casals
Conductor:  Pablo Casals
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cobla "La Principal de Gerona"
Period: 20th Century 
22.
Heroica by Enrique Casals
Conductor:  Pablo Casals
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cobla "La Principal de Gerona"
Period: 20th Century 
23.
Kinderszenen, Op. 15: no 7, Träumerei by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Otto Schulhof (Piano), Pablo Casals (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1838; Germany 

Sound Samples

Cello Concerto in B minor B191 (Op. 104): I. Allegro
Cello Concerto in B minor B191 (Op. 104): II. Adagio ma non troppo
Cello Concerto in B minor B191 (Op. 104): III. Finale (Allegro moderato)
Cello Concerto in E minor Op. 85: I. Adagio - Moderato
Cello Concerto in E minor Op. 85: II. Lento - Allegro molto
Cello Concerto in E minor Op. 85: III. Adagio
Cello Concerto in E minor Op. 85: IV. Allegro - Moderato - Allegro, ma non troppo
Kol Nidrei Op. 47 (2003 - Remaster)
Piano Trio in B flat major, Op. 97 "Archduke": Allegro moderato
Piano Trio in B flat major, Op. 97 "Archduke": Scherzo (Allegro) & Trio
Piano Trio in B flat major, Op. 97 "Archduke": Andante cantabile
Piano Trio in B flat major, Op. 97 "Archduke": Allegro moderato
Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat major, D. 898: I. Allegro moderato
Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat major, D. 898: II. Andante un poco mosso
Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat major, D. 898: III. Scherzo (Allegro) & Trio
Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat major, D. 898: IV. Rondo (Allegro vivace - Presto)
7 Variations on Mozart's 'Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen' from 'Die Zauberflöte' WoO46 (2003 - Remaster)

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Shows Casals artistry in all his glory. A bargain. March 13, 2013 By L. ACKERMAN (ASHBURN, VA) See All My Reviews "The program included here is a wonderful way to appreciate Pablo Casals'artistry; the old mono performances still amongst the most compelling and relevant of his discography. There are concertos, trios, solos, arrangements & rarities; Schumann, Dvorak, Bach, catalonian folk music, etc. All that at a price that makes for a wonderful bargain. After listening to the whole I conclude that the fourth disc of catalonian music (with a typical orchestra) is more of an acquired taste and perhaps not for repeated listening; but again, at the price, this is still more than a pleasure, representing the gamut of this great artist's soul." Report Abuse
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