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Classiscsonline Home » Composers » C » Casals, Pablo



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Pablo Casals (12/29/1876 - 10/22/1973)

It is often said that cellists revere the playing of Pablo Casals without intending to emulate him. This rather ambivalent view of a man who, born on the same day as Lionel Tertis, exerted as powerful an influence upon cello playing as Tertis did on that of the viola, is perhaps explained by his reputation in later life, when towards the end of his long recording career the technical fleetness that characterised his early performances was waning and an unfortunate tonal roughness was creeping in. The spirit of Casals’s playing—a certain poetic quality of great musical profundity—remained undimmed, however.

Compared with many of his generation, Casals was an early adopter of the omnipresent vibrato which, unlike in the acoustic recordings of Beatrice Harrison for example, is intense, consistent, always quite narrow and economical. Reflecting prevailing trends Casals cut down his use of portamento, although it does remain evident in his later recordings. Having undergone an old-fashioned training which restricted the bow arm considerably (students were often made to hold books under their arms to keep the elbows close to the sides), his most overt radicalisation of cello playing and teaching was in loosening both bow and finger action, advocating relaxation exercises to facilitate this. ‘The most perfect technique,’ he would say, ‘is that which is not noticed at all.’

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