Festival Pablo Casals, Prades
24th July - 13th August
Festival Pablo Casals
One of the most respected chamber music festivals in France and, indeed, in Europe, the event organisers consistently attract soloists and larger groups of the highest quality to perform in the beautiful abbey of Saint-Michel de Cuxà and other churches in the Prades area. Now into its 65th year, the festival is a highlight of the summer calendar for any chamber music fans.
Started in 1950 in Prades, Pablo Casal’s adopted town, the festival continues to present an inspiring series of concerts played by some of the greatest musicians of our day. Pablo Casals himself participated up to the age of 90!
In 1976, at the suggestion of the violinist, Fred Mucciolini, an Academy of Music was set up to welcome young musicians and give master classes in the art of chamber music.
The student concerts held in the last week of the festival present a great opportunity to visit the charming villages of the Conflent and to listen to the stars of tomorrow performing in the small churches packed full of Baroque Art and proud parents.
The atmosphere is intimate and the size of the churches ensures that everyone can see and feel a part of the event. Arriving early you can stroll around the remote villages, enjoy their beauty, stroll along the cobbled streets and discover the old stone buildings before going into the cool church to make the most of the music. The standard is unbelievably high, the pieces played with a passion that is almost tangible. All you are asked to do is to contribute to the student’s end of term party.
St Michel de Cuxa’s beautiful and peaceful Abbey is the main venue. Discretely dressed in soft summer clothes, local music lovers mingle with music lovers from all over the world in the graceful cloisters. (You may notice half the cloisters are missing: they are to be found in the Cloisters Museum in New York.)
As the cool abbey church fills, small bats can be seen flitting about in the high vaulted ceiling. But, once the musicians start playing, the bats are forgotten; the music commands our undivided attention.
Some concerts are held in St Pierre in Prades, a grand church boasting the largest Baroque Altar in France; others in outlying villages.
Festival Pablo Casals
BP 500 24 – 33 rue de l’hospice
66502 PRADES Cedex
Tel : 04 68 96 33 07
E-Mail : email@example.com
Site : www.prades-festival-casals.co
Certain events are free
Festival Pass: 400€
Day Pass: 40-50€
Half Day Pass: 20€
Single shows: 20-40€
Pau Carlos Salvador Casals i Defilló (December 29, 1876 – October 22, 1973), commonly known as Pablo Casals, was a virtuoso Catalan cello player (and later conductor).
He made many recordings throughout his career, of solo, chamber, and orchestral music, also as conductor, but Casals is best remembered for the recording of Bach’s Cello Suites he made from 1936 to 1939.
Casals was born in El Vendrell, Catalonia (Spain). His father, Carles Casals i Ribes (1852-1908), was a parish organist and choirmaster. He gave Casals instruction in piano, violin, and organ
At the age of 4 Casals could play the violin, piano and flute. When Casals was 11, he first heard the cello performed by a group of traveling musicians, and decided to dedicate himself to the instrument.
In 1888 his mother, Pilar Defilló de Casals, who was born in Puerto Rico of Catalan ancestry, took him to Barcelona, where he enrolled in the Escuela Municipal de Música. There he studied cello, theory, and piano.
He made prodigious progress as a cellist; on February 23, 1891 he gave a solo recital in Barcelona at the age of 14. He graduated from the Escuela with honours two years later.
In 1893, the Spanish composer Albéniz heard him playing in a trio in a café and gave him a letter of introduction to the private secretary to María Cristina, the Queen Regent, in Madrid.
Casals was asked to play at informal concerts in the palace, and was granted a royal stipend to study composition at the Conservatory de Musica y Declamacion in Madrid with the master Víctor Mirecki.
He also played in the newly organized Quartet Society. In 1895 he went to Paris, where, having lost his stipend from Spain, he earned a living by playing second cello in the theater orchestra of the Folies Marigny.
In 1896, he returned to Spain and received an appointment to the faculty of the Escuela Municipal de Música in Barcelona. He was also appointed principal cellist in the orchestra of Barcelona’s opera house, the Liceu. In 1897 he appeared as soloist with the Madrid Symphony Orchestra, and was awarded the Order of Carlos III from the Queen.
In 1899, Casals played at The Crystal Palace in London, and later for Queen Victoria at her summer residence at Cowes, Isle of Wight.
On November 12, 1899, he appeared as a soloist at a prestigious Lamoureux Concert in Paris, and played at Lamoureux again on December 17, 1899, with great public and critical acclaim.
He toured Spain and the Netherlands with the pianist Harold Bauer (1900-1901) In 1901-1902 he made his first tour of the United States. In 1903 toured South America.
On January 15, 1904, he was invited to play at the White House for president Theodore Roosevelt. On March 9 of that year he made his debut at Carnegie Hall in New York, playing Richard Strauss’s “Don Quixote” under the baton of the composer.
In 1906 he became associated with the talented young Portuguese cellist Guilhermina Suggia, who studied with him and began to appear in concerts as Mme. P. Casals-Suggia, although they were not legally married. Their liaison was dissolved in 1912; in 1914 Casals married the American socialite and singer Susan Metcalfe; they were separated in 1928, but did not divorce until 1957.
Back in Paris, Casals organized a trio with the pianist Alfred Cortot and the violinist Jacques Thibaud; they played concerts and made recordings until 1937. Casals also became interested in conducting, and in 1919 he organized, in Barcelona, the Orquesta Pau Casals and led its first concert on October 13, 1920.
With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, the Orquesta Pau Casals ceased its activities. Casals was an ardent supporter of the Spanish Republican government, and after its defeat vowed never to return to Spain until democracy was restored.
He settled in the French village of Prades, on the Spanish frontier; between 1939 and 1942 he made sporadic appearances as a cellist in the unoccupied zone of southern France and in Switzerland.
So fierce was his opposition to the Francisco Franco regime in Spain that he declined to appear in countries that recognized the totalitarian Spanish government, making an exception when he took part in a concert of chamber music in the White House on November 13, 1961, at the invitation of President John F Kennedy, whom he admired.
In 1950 he resumed his career as conductor and cellist at the Prades Festival, organized in commemoration of the bicentennial of the death of Bach; he continued leading the Prades Festivals until 1966. In 1956, he made his permanent residence San Juan, Puerto Rico, where his mother had been born (when the island was still under Spanish rule). In 1957 an annual Casals Festival was inaugurated there.
On August 3, 1957, at the age of 80, Casals married Marta Montañez Martinez, a young pupil of his.
Presidential Medal of FreedomThroughout the 1960s Casals gave many master classes in Switzerland, Italy, Berkeley, California, and Marlboro, Vermont, some of which were televised.
Casals was also a composer; perhaps his most effective work is La sardana, for an ensemble of cellos, which he composed in 1926. His oratorio El pesebre (The Manger) was performed for the first time in Acapulco, Mexico, on December 17, 1960. One of his last compositions was the Himno a las Naciones Unidas (Hymn of the United Nations); he conducted its first performance in a special concert at the United Nations on October 24, 1971, 2 months before his 95th birthday.
Casals wrote a memoir, Joys and Sorrows; Reflections (1973).
Casals died in 1973 in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the age of 96. In 1979 his mortal remains were finally laid to rest in his beloved home town of El Vendrell, Catalonia. He did not live to see the end of the Franco regime, but he was posthumously honored by the Spanish government under King Juan Carlos I, which issued in 1976 a commemorative postage stamp in honor of his 100th birthday.
British music critic W.J. Turner heard Casals play in Vienna in November, 1913. He wrote shortly thereafter in a letter:
…his playing… “is one of those rare things that may only come once in a lifetime and even not in one person’s life, it may be centuries before there is anyone like that again. He is a funny little fellow only about 30 and plays with his eyes shut practically the whole time, every note every pause and tone colour is reflected in his face and to hear him again, to draw the bow across is a revelation.”