Casals in Paris = FAURE: Elegie for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 24 (with rehearsal); CASALS: Les Rois Mages; Sardana; BACH: Sarabande from Suite No. 5 in C Minor for Solo Cello; SCHUMANN: Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129 – Lamoureux Orchestra/Pablo Casals, cello and conductor/Prades Festival Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
Archipel 0472, 74:16 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
We have a glimpse into the working methods of the great Catalan cellist, conductor and composer Pablo Casals (1876-1973), rehearsing and performing the Faure Elegie as a vast concerted string ensemble from Paris, at the Grand Amphitheatre de la Sorbonne, October 1956. The live 1952 Prades collaboration on the Schumann Cello Concerto long remained in the LP catalogue (ML 4926) from CBS coupled with selected encores.
Casals leads his extended (twenty-four minutes) rehearsal in clear articulate French, with palpable changes in tempo, timbre, and phrasing. The eight minute realization exerts a healthy though somber energy, fluid and polished. Casals’ own two composition owe everything to Bach’s chorales, but their enjoy their own sense of graceful, contrapuntal homage to the Infinite, the Sardana’s exuding a more sensuous, frothy surface. The Sardana offers huge sighs, a melodic thrust that more than once recalls a Max Steiner evocation of the Sierre Madre. The audience cheers in huge waves. The Bach Sarabande, introspective and devotional, has that inevitable counterpoint of Casals’ own, guttural singing voice and intake of breath.
The Schumann Concerto, as one critic noted, can be the most moribund and lugubrious of such works, and Casals and Ormandy play the piece for its slow haunted sensibilities. If we accept the performance as a 19th Century evocation of the Schumann style, we will have few troubles in accepting its parameters of tempo and phrase. The seventy-nine-year-old Casals still exerts emotional force, and Ormandy’s accompaniment eagerly complement the disposition for epic gestures. A special document, this disc, given the magnitude of the musician and his political and musical ferocity.