WORKS: Sonatas, BWV 1027, 1029, 1029; Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G, BWV 1049
PERFORMER: Pablo Casals (cello)Paul Baumgartner (piano)John Wummer, Bernard Goldberg (flutes); Prades Festival Orchestra/Pablo Casals
CATALOGUE NO: SMK 66572 ADD mono (1950)
‘The work of all artists stands as a symbol of human freedom; no one has enriched that freedom more signally than Pablo Casals’; President John Kennedy’s tribute to the great Catalan cellist on the occasion of his fabled White House appearance in 1961 resounds eloquendy across the decades in these reissues. A passionate antagonist of tyranny and injustice, Casals withdrew from public life in 1945, having settled in Prades as a refugee in 1939. His return to the concert stage during festivals at Prades and Perpignan between 1950 and 1966, was catalogued by inspirational performances originally mustered on mediocre-sounding Columbia LPs.
Casals directed Mozart with regimented authority, as confirmed by accounts ofEine kleine Nachtmusik and the Symphony No. 29. Marcel Tabuteau’s oboe contribution in the K251 Divertimento was dimly chronicled by a murky Columbia master. Of the piano concertos, however, the hitherto unreleased K466 proves unexpectedly serviceable, although Serkin’s account of K482, exultant and miraculous, utterly transcends Yvonne Lefdmre in the other work. But the Bach performances from the inaugural 1950 Prades event are unforgettable; Casals recorded these sonatas, written for viola da gamba with pianist Paul Baumgartner, and directed the Festival Orchestra in the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto. If the latter recalls inflated pre-war emasculations from the Busch ensemble and odiers, the Sonatas evince a grandeur and humanity that was quintessential Casals, and in uncommonly decent sound.
The Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti joined Casals and Myra Hess in 1952; their collaboration in Brahms’s C major Trio was entirely creditable, yet, nine years later, on 13 November 1961, CBS microphones positioned in the East Room of the White House would document one of the great musical events of the century. Casals, violinist Alexander Schneider and pianist Mieczystaw Horszowski performed the first of Mendelssohn’s Trios, at President Kennedy’s behest; Sony’s decision to withhold the remainder of the programme from this series, originally circulated as CBS BRG 72035, is unfathomable.
Last in this clutch of reissues comes a selection of Casals encores, fascinating memorabilia spanning almost forty years of performing; an invaluable addition to Sony’s Casals discography, though at barely fifty minutes’ duration, and given the rudimentary nature of much of the sound here, this disc has less general appeal than the foregoing. Nonetheless, every collector for whom Casals’s artistry was synonymous with libertarianism and a desire to advance the day of universal peace, should hear these discs. Michael Jameson