Childhood & Early Life
Pablo Casals was born to Carles Casals I Ribes and Pilar Defill� de Casals in El Vendrell, Catalonia, Spain. His father was a parish organist and choirmaster, which explains his musical career.
From a young age, his father, a strict disciplinarian, taught him various instruments such as piano, organ and violin. By four, he had learned the basics of playing the violin, flute and piano and two years later, mastered the violin for a solo performance.
His first encounter with cello was witnessing a local Catalan musician playing a similar instrument. It was only when he was eleven that he first heard the actual sound of the instrument. Inspired by the same, he resolved to make a career playing the instrument.
In 1888, he first received formal training in cello, theory and piano at the Escola Municipal de M�sica. Two years later, he incidentally discovered a dilapidated copy of Bach's six cello suites in a sheet music store in Barcelona.
He spent the next thirteen years practicing the cello suites in order to master them. Meanwhile in 1891, he performed his first solo recital in Barcelona.
While studying at Escola he was offered to play at informal concerts in the palace of Mar�a Cristina, the Queen Regent. Meanwhile, for his musical services, he was paid a stipend of studying composition at the Real Conservatorio de M�sica y Declamaci�n in Madrid with V�ctor Mirecki.
In 1895, he moved to Paris. Having lost his royal stipend, he started playing second cello in the theatre orchestra of the Folies Marigny for survival. A year later he returned to Catalonia and graduated with honors from Escola.
Upon his graduation, he was offered a chair in the teaching staff of the Escola Municipal de M�sica in Barcelona. Furthermore, he was offered the seat of a principal cellist in the orchestra of the Barcelona’s open house - the Liceu.
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His first professional outing in music was as a soloist with the Madrid Symphony Orchestra in 1897.
His international career commenced playing at the Crystal Palace in London in 1899. The same year, he played for Queen Victoria at the Osborne House along with Ernest Walker.
In the months of November and December of 1899, he played as a soloist at the Lamoureux Concerts in Paris. His performance was highly acclaimed and widely appreciated by the critics and the audience alike.
For a year from 1900 to 1901, he toured with pianist Harold Bauer to parts of Spain and Netherlands. Following this, in 1901, he commenced his first tour to the US. In 1903, he toured South America.
His great panache at the instrument and outstanding musical abilities earned him an offer to play at the White House for President Theodore Roosevelt in January 15, 1904. The same year, in March, he debuted at Carnegie Hall in New York for Richard Strauss's Don Quixote.
His overgrowing popularity and fame brought him to public notice. He received a number of invitations for performing in front of world leaders and influential royal personalities. In May 1911, he played at the London Music Festival on its second day at the Queen’s Hall.
He returned to Paris to set up a concert trio group with pianist Alfred Cortot and violinist Jacques Thibaud. Together, the threesome continued to play concerts until 1937.
Meanwhile, in 1919, having found an interest in conducting, he set up the Pau Casals Orchestra in Barcelona. The first concert of the orchestra hit off on October 13, 1920. However, due to the outbreak of the Spanish War in 1936, the orchestra ceased to perform later on.
Post the Spanish war and the downfall of the Spanish Republican government, he vowed to leave on a self-exile only to return to Spain when the country re-attained its democracy. October 19, 1938 marked his last performance at the Gran Teatre del Liceu before his exile.
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Moving on from Spain, he settled himself in the French Catalan village of Prada de Conflent. For three years, from 1939 to 1942, he made irregular appearance as a cellist.
In 1950, he resumed his career on a full-fledged note by serving as the cellist and conductor at the Prades Festival in Conflent. The festival was organized in the memory of the 200th death anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach. He continued performing at the festival until 1966.
In 1955, he moved to Puerto Rico to inaugurate the annual Casals Festival. Over the next few years, he greatly influenced the musical scene of the country. He not only founded the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra in 1958 but also set up the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico in 1959.
Towards the end of his career, he took up the profile of a teacher and gave music lessons to various pupils across the globe in cities such as Gstaad, Zermatt, Tuscany, Berkeley, and Marlboro
A strict follower of the Spanish republican government, he refused to perform in the countries which supported the authoritarian government of Spain. However, he made a rare exception by performing at the White House on November 13, 1961, upon receiving an invite from then President John F Kennedy.
‘Hymn of the United Nations’ was one of his last compositions. He performed the same in a special concert in United Nations In October, 1971.
Awards & Achievements
He was awarded the Order of the Carlos III from the Queen in 1897.
In 1963, he became the proud recipient of the prestigious U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. The same year, he was initiated as an honorary member of the Epsilon Iota Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity at The Florida State University.
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In 1971, he was presented with the U.N. Peace Medal in recognition of his stance for peace, justice and freedom by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant
In 1973, he was conferred with the Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award.
Personal Life & Legacy
He first became romantically involved with Guilhermina Suggia, a fellow Portuguese student and cellist. The two shared a strong bond until 1912 before parting ways.
Two years later, in 1914, he tied the nuptial knot with American socialite and singer Susan Metcalfe. However, the relationship did not last long. The two separated in 1928 but were legally divorced only in 1957.
Meanwhile, in 1955, he went into the wedlock with his long-time associate Francesca Vidal de Capdevila. However, she died the same year they got married.
In 1957, he married Marta Monta�ez y Martinez. She was 20 years of age, 60 years younger to him. The two lived together until his death.
He breathed his last in 1973 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was 96 years of age at the time of his death. He was buried at the Puerto Rico National Cemetery
Posthumously, he was honoured by the Spanish government in 1976, which issued a commemorative postage stamp depicting him, to honour the centenary of his birth.
Later on, in 1979, he was interred in his hometown of El Vendrell, Catalonia
In 1989, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2000, the International Pablo Casals Cello Competition was initiated. With the help of the competition, new talent in the field of cello playing are discovered. The competition is supported by the Pau Casals Foundation. Moreover, the annual Casals Festival which he inaugurated in 1955 is celebrated till date.
He has a symphony hall, a museum and numerous schools named after him. The Centro de Bellas Artes complex serves as the home of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, while the Casals Hall inaugurated in 1987 in Tokyo serves as a venue for chamber music