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Sunday Morning Cello
July 8, 2007 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Pablo Casals Bach Cello Suite No.1 - recorded in the Abbaye Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa in 1954.
posted by vronsky (23 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now this is a Youtube post I can endorse. Fantastic.
posted by Neilopolis at 8:20 AM on July 8, 2007


Lovely, thank you.
posted by hollisimo at 8:33 AM on July 8, 2007


Great find, vronsky.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:04 AM on July 8, 2007


Great Sunday music, thanks vronsky!
posted by madamjujujive at 9:20 AM on July 8, 2007


ahh, lovely. Thanks vronsky.

Your third link with the quotations by Casals is amazing. What a wonderful mind!

"Each person has inside a basic decency and goodness. If he listens to it and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most. It is not complicated but it takes courage. It takes courage for a person to listen to his own goodness and act on it."

"I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance."

"Let us not forget that the greatest composers were also the greatest thieves. They stole from everyone and everywhere."

"The first thing to do in life is to do with purpose what one purposes to do."

"The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?"

Truly inspiring and awesome.

He had a funky first cello, "constructed of a broom handle, and a gourd, and some gut strings".

A Portrait of
Pablo Casals

A "Scrapbook"
of photos, essays
and books
Compiled by
Dr. Marshall C. St. John

There's a cute little Pablo Casals Museum in Puerto Rico.
posted by nickyskye at 10:00 AM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Now this is a Youtube post I can endorse. Fantastic.

as someone who loves Bach's cello suites, even though this one has always made me think a Massengill(tm) commercial, or maybe Dean Witter(tm) investments, i would like to denounce your high culture snobbery. why exactly is this better than teenagers humping ottomans? i'm not joking.

also, while I'm at it. I hate Yo Yo Ma and everything he stands for. Every single recording he has made is total shit and all of the people who copy his smooth and easy cello style suck the ever-loving life out the cello suites when they record them.

listen to old pablo scrape the hell out of his strings. that sort of thing probably makes Yo Yo's sphincter clench too hard.

also, the cd recording of casals playing the cello suites is also total shit. i think it is a remastering of a very old mono recording, which may be the only complete record out there. the old mono lp has much much better dynamic range.
posted by geos at 10:17 AM on July 8, 2007


Thanks nickyskye. I remember reading somewhere that he played one of the six Bach cello suites every morning upon waking for most of his adult life. What a great morning meditation to have. No wonder he had such a great mind, and a great soul. He has always been one of my heroes.

(the girl's reactions in the master class link are priceless)
posted by vronsky at 10:22 AM on July 8, 2007


geos, Enjoyed your comment and agree with you in denouncing high culture snobbery and pseudo smooth musical texture.

Just for reference, Yo-Yo Ma discussing Casals playing Bach's Sarabande. and speaking of that piece of music, it was brilliantly used in Ingmar Berman's final film he directed, Saraband, about an cunning, quietly evil narcissist father, his victim-become-victimiser son, victimised-acting out granddaughter. In it the victim-victimiser son teaches his daughter the cello. An exceptionally interesting, intelligent-disturbing, movie.

vronsky, The YouTube vid of Casals teaching cello is so moving, he's radiant with sparkly life force, integrity and mischief. Yes, loved the young woman's surprised/shocked reactions. Wonder who she was? His teaching brought tears to my eyes, he was so wise, precise, passionate, full of joie de vivre and loving at the same time.

The other day when commenting in the Eddie Who? flamenco post, I listened to the first of your links and it's so good you made a Casals post.
posted by nickyskye at 10:57 AM on July 8, 2007


geez, geos.

geos: "why exactly is this better than teenagers humping ottomans? i'm not joking."

Because it's fucking Casals playing the goddamned Cello Suites by fucking Bach. No cultural snobbery needed-- only realism.

Ditto on Yo Yo Ma, though. That's all that needs to be said about that. And you're absolutely correct about the many CD versions of Casals' Suites, although this CD has treated me much better than any of the others. It is, unfortunately, as it is with much of music today; if you want good sound and high fidelity, you're really better off finding a solid old turntable and a mono platter.

Now that all of that is out of the way, let's think about this recording. Now, there's always been some disagreement about "which recording of the Cello Suites is best?"-- people nowadays can't seem to think of anything better to argue about. There are many incredibly good ones, some really atrocious ones too, but the two which stand out to me are Msitslav Rostropovich's and Pau Casals'. I should point out in saying so that while Casals' are emotive, passionate, natural, and immediate, Rostropovich's Suites are calculated, careful, detached, and owe very much to modern scholarship which has suggested that this detachment is more characteristic of how instrumental music in Bach's time would have been played. I also want to point out that, while I love and admire Rostropovich's version of the Suites, as well as his contribution to music in general, Casals is, in my mind, a far better cellist, and his Suites are deeper and more lovely than anyone else's. And, if one read's Rostropovich's liner notes, one sees that he feels the same way; in fact, he speaks fondly of one of his most cherished memories: when Casals sat before him and played Bach for him privately.

One thing to remember about Pau Casals and Bach's Cello Suites is this: if he hadn't played them, if he hadn't recorded them, they probably wouldn't have been heard at all. A hundred years ago, they still belonged to that huge corpus of music by Bach that hasn't been played publicly and popularly in centuries. Bach's Cello Suites didn't even really technically exist before Pau Casals, at least not in playable fashion. The Cello of Bach's time was an entirely different beast, with an auxiliary string and a loose bow which meant that one could bow all five strings at once if one so chose. Pau Casals studied these pieces for years, carefully inventing a way for them to be played-- you'll notice this whenever all the strings are written to be bowed at once, and he plays an arpeggiated chord, dragging his bow rapidly across the strings and catching all of them quickly. ("Brr-brrr-brrr-brr!") Pau Casals should take the credit for this nomenclature, which has been followed ever since, and while every cellist who plays the Suites brings her or his own character to it, they all owe this to Casals.

All this is prior to the more important fact: that Pau Casals is probably the greatest cellist that we have the good fortune of having recordings of. He is careful, passionate, brilliant, and has a depth of soul that most men strive only fleetingly for. Thank you, vronsky, for this lovely piece on a Sunday morning.

I both pity and envy that poor girl in the last link who has to play cello in front of the man himself.

Also, by the way, his name is actually "Pau Casals."
posted by koeselitz at 11:13 AM on July 8, 2007 [6 favorites]


Would Casals humping an ottoman be a nice compromise?

Geez, talk about overreacting.
posted by Neilopolis at 11:19 AM on July 8, 2007


geos: i would like to denounce your high culture snobbery . . . [and then, a moment later, without a trace of irony] . . . the cd recording of casals playing the cello suites is also total shit . . . the old mono lp has much much better dynamic range.

lol. That is all.
posted by The Bellman at 11:19 AM on July 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


i would like to denounce your high culture snobbery . . . [and then, a moment later, without a trace of irony] . . . the cd recording of casals playing the cello suites is also total shit . . . the old mono lp has much much better dynamic range.

Don't experience any cognitive dissonance there. High culture snobbery is one thing and perceiving the music, whatever music it is, with educated precision is another.
posted by nickyskye at 11:32 AM on July 8, 2007


I don't know why we are getting the ottoman humping hatred in this thread. Sheesh - it could be argued that some ottoman humping can fall in the category of cultural snobbery, too. I'm just sayin. (... end derail).
posted by madamjujujive at 12:05 PM on July 8, 2007


Hilarious sopping bloomers parody, mjjj. I'd like to second enjoying the humping ottoman vid and glad it co-exists in this amazing kaleidoscopic YouTubed reality with Casals' gems.
posted by nickyskye at 12:13 PM on July 8, 2007


*Ingmar Bergman
posted by nickyskye at 1:30 PM on July 8, 2007


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6yuR8efotI&mode=related&search=

I can't think of anything clever or funny to say. just watch it.
posted by silence at 1:45 PM on July 8, 2007




i would like to denounce your high culture snobbery. why exactly is this better than teenagers humping ottomans? i'm not joking.

geos, I'm sorry you're not joking. If you can't perceive the difference between a legendary musician performing music by one of the world's most treasured composers of music, and teenagers being goofy, I weep for your incredibly thin sliver of perception and experience. And before you project your bias onto me (assuming I'm talking about "high" or "low" culture), I'm talking about both objective and subjective substance, not whether one video is "superior" to the other.

Since you asked, I'll clarify: first, there is an obvious difference in objective substance: it took Bach a dedicated lifetime to develop his craft, as it did Casals. The video of this performance is the result of two lifetimes of artistic genius--pretty amazing stuff. Videos of teenagers humping ottomans, on the other hand, have little in the way of craft or skill, and are most definitely not the product of a life dedicated to comedy or ottoman-humping.

Subjectively speaking, the Casals performance is something that offers me continued reward on repeated listening and viewing. I find that my experience with this music--particularly great performances of this music--to be complex and nuanced, and I enjoy exploring those nuances every time I have the experience of listening to it. Ottoman humping just stops being funny after a while.

To me, the differences are self-evident. I'm very glad I live in a world with both, and enjoy the experience of both greatly--though they are, most definitely, different kinds of experiences. To say that there is no difference is really pretty ignorant in my view, and as intolerant a knee-jerk reaction as a cultural snob might have.


Also: I hate Yo Yo Ma and everything he stands for.

Well, I'm sure he's no fan of yours, either. I had the great pleasure several years ago of hearing Mr. Ma give an amazing cello master class, where he spoke about the Bach Suites in great detail, and about how his approach to playing them has changed throughout his life (particularly after working with Mark O'Connor and Edgar Meyer--Ma has incorporated some fiddle technique into his bowing, esp. on that Prelude from the first suite). He also spoke quite perceptively on Casals' approach, and how the perspective on performing Baroque and Classical music has changed since then.

Finally, I recommend to all who have not read it Casals and the Art of Interpretation by David Blum.
posted by LooseFilter at 4:00 PM on July 8, 2007



Since you asked, I'll clarify: first, there is an obvious difference in objective substance: it took Bach a dedicated lifetime to develop his craft, as it did Casals. The video of this performance is the result of two lifetimes of artistic genius--pretty amazing stuff. Videos of teenagers humping ottomans, on the other hand, have little in the way of craft or skill, and are most definitely not the product of a life dedicated to comedy or ottoman-humping.


this is exactly the viewpoint that i denounce.

your words are a funerary oration for a body that need not be quite dead, though really it is. so lets get on with the burial and sing high praises and get out of town before the crypt starts to smell...

Just for reference, Yo-Yo Ma discussing Casals playing Bach's Sarabande.

why is Yo-Yo playing deep underground behind bars: because he is in hell paying for his crimes. my ears are bleeding.
posted by geos at 6:13 PM on July 8, 2007


Thank you. I listened to these several times today. They really helped my day.
posted by serazin at 7:43 PM on July 8, 2007


this is exactly the viewpoint that i denounce.

Then please indulge me and explain why this is such an abhorrent view for you, and why comments as to relative substance (not merits, or value) are a 'funerary oration'.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:57 PM on July 8, 2007


This is the weirdest argument ever.

And Yo-Yo Ma just isn't a very great cellist, is all. His two versions of the Suites are probably the limpest, least interesting I've heard. He can talk about them all day, and have people make interesting short films about them, which is all fine and good, but I'll never be listening to his versions of them when I want to hear Bach.

Although that doesn't exactly inspire me to outrage or disgust.
posted by koeselitz at 7:33 AM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is the weirdest argument ever.

I agree, though my point of contention isn't with anyone's opinion of Yo-Yo Ma--I don't listen to him much, either, though I should say he gave an incredible recital several years ago that I enjoyed immensely. But he didn't play any Bach, mostly new and 20th c. music.

My confusion is how (what I perceive to be) knee-jerk anti-elitism is translated to "nothing can have more substance than anything else, ever", thus my request for clarification.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:21 AM on July 9, 2007


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