Pablo Casals was almost
40 when he made these acoustic recordings.
During the next 57 years of his long
life he acquired legendary status as
a pioneering solo cellist, touring the
world before settling in the south of
France and establishing the Prades Festival
after the Second World War. It is good
to hear Casals in his prime and in transfers
by Ward Marston which are almost miraculously
vivid considering the age of the recordings.
His playing has great grace, cultured
intonation and a restraint that I sometimes
This record has a double-billed
title suggesting previous issues of
encores and transcriptions, and that
more acoustic recordings will be forthcoming.
The recording of Après un
rêve is an important document
– this arrangement of Fauré’s
song is probably now best known in the
arrangement by Casals presented here.
Kol Nidrei and Bach’s Cello Suite
No 3 (from which we are offered four
movements – presumably all he recorded
at the time) are the most substantial
offerings and arguably the items of
greatest interest. Overall, the disc
left me feeling sad that the recording
conditions of the time favoured the
relatively short and trivial.
Comparison of the solo
Bach movements with Casals’s more famous
EMI recording of the complete set of
Cello Suites (made between 1936-9) are
fascinating. Of course, it was Casals
who "discovered" these pieces
(initially in a second-hand shop) and
he studied them for many years before
even playing them in public. In the
later recordings there is much more
attack and obvious attempt at interpretation.
After listening to the acoustic recordings,
the later renditions had me on the edge
of my seat. But the passage of time
was not all gain and there was less
rhythmic license and greater accuracy
in 1915-6. For me, he achieved something
closer to the spirit of the music in
the earlier recordings - should this
really be edge of the seat stuff? I
was certainly left wishing he had recorded
the whole of the piece (and the other
Suites) instead of the likes of Handel’s
Largo and Rubinstein’s Melody in F.
As indicated above,
the sound is very good considering the
period. There is a lot of hiss but no
distortion and the ear soon adjusts.
I found it more comfortable listening
on a microsystem than on my "serious"
hi-fi. The accompaniments are well in
the background, particularly the small
"pick-up" orchestra and sometimes
it can be quite fun trying to work out
which instruments are playing (is that
a harp I hear at the beginning of Liebestraum?).
The documentation is
a little short on precision, as shown
by the listings above which are presented
as given on the liner. For example,
as one might expect, it is indeed Liszt’s
Liebestraum No. 3 (although unclear
who transcribed it) and I presume that
one of the two pieces by Popper labelled
as Op. 11 is in error. However, none
of that should put one off acquiring
this disc. Those interested in matrix
numbers will be content and there are
good notes on Casals’ career by Tully
Potter. It is not made clear where these
recordings were made although there
is a strong implication in the notes
that it was somewhere in the USA.
Thanks are due to Naxos
for making essential history available
at bargain price. If you are interested
in the cello, this is a must.
Patrick C Waller