Monday, February 20, 2017

"You Are A Marvel" and Other Beauty from Pau Casals

I've recently read JOYS AND SORROWS: Reflections of Pablo Casals, written with the help of Albert E. Kahn.

I learned several things about Pablo ("Pau" in his native Catalonia):

He had terrible stage fright and preferred conducting to performing himself.

He worked with Bach's cello suites for TWELVE YEARS before performing them in public.

In his years of exile, he ended each concert by playing "Song of the Birds" to honor his birthplace Catalonia.

He did not think young wunderkinds should be set apart. He said these individuals should be grateful for their talent, and work with it, honor it, and give it back to the world.

He loved Bach and played his pieces on the piano first thing each morning.

He believed art requires labor (practice).

He thought of the cello as a friend, and as a captor.

Here is one of my favorite passages from the book:

"Each second we live in a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that never was before and will never be again. And what do we teach our children in school? We teach them that two and two makes four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all of the world there is no other child exactly like you. In the millions of years that have passed there has never been another child like you. And look at your body – what a wonder it is! Your legs, your arms, your cunning fingers, the way you move! You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must cherish one another. Your must work – we all must work – to make this world worthy of its children."

And here is a beautiful recording of Pau Casals playing "Song of the Birds" late in his life, after not having played publicly for forty years.

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