Sunday, January 17, 2010

Casals At 95: I Live!

I've been immersed in youtube videos of Pau Casals, the great cellist and interpreter of Bach. There are videos of him in his seventies, toddling around with his black umbrella in the villages of southern France, just over the border from his native Catalonia, which he never reentered after the Spanish Civil War, as a protest against the Franco regime. There are recordings of him playing the Bach Cello Suites, which he rediscovered and performed all over the world. There are tapes of his speeches, and his heart-breaking performance of a Catalan folk song at the U.N., when he was well into his nineties--his bowing shaky, his vibrato gone, but the feeling and the passion all there.

When he was 93, he continued to play the cello three hours every day, beginning with scales and arpeggios, and ending, every day, with one of the cello suites by Bach. When somebody asked him why he did this, he answered "I'm beginning to notice some improvement."

In one interview, he tells how, when he was seventeen, he was invited to perform for the Queen of Spain and her court. His mother went with him, along with a baby, one of Casals' many siblings. When, during the performance, the baby began to cry, Mrs. Casals, without a second thought, put him to her breast, and nursed him.

(That baby, by the way, grew up to be a fine violinist, who shared a music stand with my father in the Barcelona City orchestra, in the 1950s.)

In that same interview, the 95-year-old Casals is asked what keeps him going. "I can look at a tree, at a plant, for an hour. Such beauty!" he exclaims, raising his hands. "You see," he says, his black eyes twinkling, "most people don't live. I live!"

You can see Pau Casals (whose name in Catalan means "Paul," but also "peace") here.

11 comments :

  1. What a beautiful and inspiring post. I didn't know that your father's colleague was That baby! (I wish italics were available...)
    The story about practicing at 93 reminds me of hte story aobut Titian's last words: Titian dies at 99 and his last words were "I was just learning to paint"

    By the way the link you sent me via email didn't work and I couldn't fidn the video in question on youtube. It would help if I knew the name of the Catalan folksong - I'm dying to hear it!

    Why do I think of him as Pablo Casals rather than Pau Casals?

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  2. Sorry about all the typos and of course it should read "Titian died at 99" How embarrassing.

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  3. Sorry about that. The folk song is "El Cant dels ocells," and there are many performances of it on youtube. The performance I was talking about is entitled "Pau Casals at the U.N." Let me know if you can't get it and I'll try to send it again. Or see if you can cut and paste this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rt9iz3xApVg

    "Pablo" is his name in Castilian. "Pau" is his name in Catalan. Of course the Spanish government referred to him as Pablo. Of course the entire Catalan nation insists to this day that he is Pau. The controversy still rages.

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  5. i see that i need to teach you how to do clickable links in comments, lali.

    it's a simple matter of typing commands, and all commands begin with open carat (<) a

    (if i actually type it in, it activates the code. so i have to describe it. which makes it seem more complicated than it is)

    after the a, a space. then this: href=

    and then, inside quotation marks, paste in the URL to the link.

    then a close carat (>)

    then type whatever you want the link to say: You Tube song. or Here it is. or whatever you like.

    then finish the whole thing off with , which ends every command.

    it's really simple.

    just coding.

    to repeat: open carat
    a
    space
    href=
    URL within quotation marks
    close carat
    type the link
    then finish with /a inside carats

    in the end, it shoudl look like this:

    Casals on Youtube

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  6. Thanks, Laurie! "just coding" you say, but pretty mysterious to me.

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  7. Lali, what I do is open a new entry window in the edit html mode (not compose mode, but the one where you see the funny mark up language if you italicize, etc).

    I type what I want the link to say, I click on it, I click the link button. Then I type in the link.

    I copy the resulting html language. I close the tab/window and then paste this into the comment. I don't have the head to learn html right now...I cheat.

    But what I was going to say was this was so inspirational this morning! Thank you!

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  8. it IS simple, dammit! though bridgett's solution is brilliant.

    and i didn't mean to change the subject from such a fine post.

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  9. To my technical support team: thanks for everything! I'll try to put your ingenious suggestions into practice.

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  10. The link works now, and what a treat!

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  11. Part of your heritage. You are half Catalan....

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