S0133. JACQUES THIBAUD, PABLO CASALS & ALFRED CORTOT: Trio in d (Mendelssohn); Trio in d (Schumann). (Canada) Naxos 8.110185, recorded 1927/'28, resp. Long out-of-print, final copy! - 636943118528
"Suave, debonair, and sincere, [Thibaud’s] art was an extension of his personality; therefore, while he had numerous pupils, he had no stylistic heir. Thibaud’s playing is immediately recognizable and he can be mistaken for no one else. He also had an air of belonging to an earlier time….Like his friend Georges Enescu, Thibaud had a vocabulary of slides and ways of sneaking up on a note that today’s virtuosos would profit from studying. These expressive devices contributed to an erotic quality in Thibaud’s playing that, paradoxically, is missing in our modern world of tawdry sexual display."
- Joseph Magil, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, May/June, 2004
“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
“Alfred Denis Cortot studied at the Paris Conservatory with Decambes and others, winning first prize in piano in 1896. He made his début the same year in Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto. Soon he became widely acclaimed as a performer of Beethoven concerti, appearing as a soloist in two prominent Parisian concert series. In 1898 he went to Bayreuth to study Wagner's music and was hired as a choral coach and then as an assistant conductor. Cortot brought Wagner to Paris, leading the first Paris performance of GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG (May 1902), and a remarkable performance of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE the next month. Also in 1902 he established his own concert series, the Association des Concerts A. Cortot. Although it lasted only two years, it did much towards breaking down the conservative French resistance to Wagner, particularly with a concert performance of PARSIFAL, and even the first French performances of Beethoven's MISSA SOLEMNIS and Brahms' REQUIEM. He also served contemporary French music by premiering works of Roussel, Magnard, and others.
In 1904 he became the conductor of the Concerts Populaires at Lille, and the following year he joined with cellist Pablo Casals and violinist Jacques Thibaud to form one of the greatest of permanently established piano trios, one which became a model of its type, touring frequently. This drew him back to the piano, which he had never given up despite his fame as a conductor. In 1907 he joined the faculty of the Paris Conservatory, teaching piano, but remained very active as a piano soloist and chamber music player. He gave up that position in 1917, feeling that his busy concert schedule had made it impossible to devote sufficient uninterrupted periods to teaching. In 1919 he founded the École Normale de Musique, assembling a faculty of famous musicians. As the director, he taught a summer course in interpretation, which became famous. He continued a career performing piano around the world, including lecture recitals, and also guest conducted many orchestras. He also continued to premiere new French piano music. Cortot was a skillful and scholarly editor of great piano music, famous for his editions of most of Chopin's piano music. Cortot's teacher was a student of Chopin, and the grace of his Chopin performances, especially, remains breathtaking and should be recommended to all students of the piano; he also had a remarkable way with the music of Robert Schumann.
In 1943 Cortot founded the Chamber Music Society of the Paris Conservatory Concerts. However, his admiration for German culture served him ill when Germany occupied France between from 1940 to 1944, and he appeared to cooperate with them willingly. This led to his being shunned after the war both in France and elsewhere. By the time he returned to the concert stage, some years later, it was clear that his memory was failing; his main legacy remains in the records he made in the 1920s and 1930s. In addition, he was an avid collector and amassed, among other items, a large quantity of autograph scores and printed music. After his death, this collection was divided among several important libraries and universities; it remains an interesting view into the mind of a musician who was both a living link to Romantic Paris and a key figure of the twentieth century.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com