C1911. PABLO CASALS Cond. Prades Festival Ensemble; Hugues Cuénod, Doda Conrad, Roger Salman, Petre Munteanu, Josephine Nardick, Philipp Markham, Ilse Woilf & Dorothea von Stein: ST JOHN PASSION (Bach). (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-1198, Live Performance, 11 July, 1959, Église Saint-Pierre, Prades. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"The first Prades Festival was held in 1950 to mark the bicentenary of Bach’s death and to coax Casals out of retirement. Several of the world’s most notable musicians attended, and Columbia was on hand to record the proceedings….The quality of the recorded sound is fine and the audience very quiet. The performances also have one endearing quality of broadcast recordings from the 1950s: there is no editing."
- David Radcliffe, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, March/April, 2007
"These historical recordings are a vital link to the 19th Century attitude toward chamber music because many of the older musicians who played at Prades in the 1950s came of age towards the end of the 19th Century [offering] a great deal of extremely creative music-making…."
- Elaine Fine, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, May/June, 2003
“As the first modern cello virtuoso, Pablo Casals created a new appreciation of the instrument and its repertory when the concert stage was still considered the exclusive playground of the piano and violin. Casals also devoted his formidable musical skills to composition and conducting, leaving many insightful readings of the standard orchestral repertory to posterity via recordings. He is remembered today as much for his pacifism and regard for human life as for his musicianship (he once stated that ‘the life of a single child is worth more to me than all my music’).
Casals came to his true instrument relatively late in life, having first developed some degree of skill on the piano, violin, and organ. Discovery of the cello at the age of 11 led to studies (from 1887 on) with J. Garcia at the Barcelona Municipal Music School. After a period of supporting himself playing in local cafés, Casals was granted a royal scholarship to the Madrid Conservatory in 1893, where he worked with Tomás Bretón, and later in Brussels in 1895.
After a brief tenure as a cellist at the Folies-Marigny music hall in Paris, Casals returned to teach and perform in Barcelona, and joined the first of a series of notable chamber ensembles with which he would be associated: a piano trio with Belgian violinist Crickboom and well known pianist and composer Enrique Granados. In 1919 Casals founded the Orquestra Pau Casals in Barcelona. Although the project was quite successful, the outbreak of civil war in 1936 forced its dissolution. Casals, who spoke out vehemently against the Franco regime, was forced to seek refuge in the Catalan village of Prades. Following the Second World War, saddened by the lack of any definitive action against the Franco regime by major world powers, Casals elected to cease performing as an act of protest.
Inspired by the Bach bicentenary celebrations of 1950 at the first annual Prades Festival, Casals came out of retirement to begin a new series of recordings and concerts. In 1956 he made a new home in Puerto Rico, where he founded the Puerto Rico Festival. Though nearing 85, he began a campaign for peace in 1962, traveling around the world to conduct performances of his oratorio EL PESSEBRE (The Manger). Casals continued to make occasional concert appearances until virtually the end of his life in 1973.
Casals' impact on cello playing in the twentieth century cannot be overestimated. His radical approach to bow and finger technique produced a mechanical prowess far beyond any other cellist of the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. In addition, Casals was the first cellist to incorporate the kind of left-hand shifting techniques which had been employed for decades by violinists, thus allowing for far greater agility on the cello than had been previously thought possible. Always scornful of ‘flashy’, superficial virtuosi, Casals strove tirelessly to develop and maintain the kind of intense musical concentration which he considered to be the true artist's responsibility.”
- Blair Johnston, allmusic.com
"The word that best describes [Munteanu’s] singing is ‘delicacy’. The voice is a leggiero in the best sense of that category. It is a light tenor, suffused with an attractive, flicker vibrato, and capable of melting sweetness of tone. He reminds one of Schipa….This is singing of rare grace and fastidious taste, and always accomplished with charm and a real ‘face’….To represent this aristocrat of a tenor in your collection is precisely what record collecting is all about."
- Larry Lustig, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2004