We invite chamber music lovers and those passionate about Catalonia to discover the world of Pablo Casals. Also known as Pau Casals, this famous cellist made history with his talent and his commitment to fighting for freedom; he will go down in history as a great humanist. He had true pride in Catalan culture and there is now a festival named after him, the Pablo Casals Festival, which is a highlight in region’s must-sees.
The Pablo Casals Festival continues to perpetuate the spirit of its creator, allowing both the enjoyment of great masterpieces of chamber music as well as the discovery of lesser-known classical or contemporary repertoires. Concerts take place in several important sites in the surrounding valleys in order to ensure the music can be widely appreciated.
Pablo Casals was born on 29 December 1876 in Vendrell to a family of musicians. His father was an organist and music teacher. Pablo learned to play the piano from the age of four and then learned violin and flute. He discovered the cello at 12 years of age, which he studied at the Municipal music school in Barcelona. His career truly began in Barcelona (he was Director of the Conservatory for 19 years and the first cellist of the Opera), then continued in Paris. It was the start of an international career: the United States, South America and Europe (Berlin, Vienna, Prague, London, and St Petersburg). Pablo would play 250 concerts per year, alone or in the chamber music trio Thibaud-Cortot-Casals (created in 1905), or even armed with the conductor’s baton. This dazzling career was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. Despising both the communists and the Franco supporters, Pablo was forced into exile, to Prades in Roussillon. He never stopped helping Spanish refugees who gathered on the French side of the border. He refused to play in public in a country which flouted democracy and denounced all collaboration with Nazi Germany. It was not until 1950 that he played in public once more, taking part in the first Bach festival – which has become the Pablo Casals Festival – organised in Prades by a group of his admirers. Casals was 74 years old. He subsequently found his second youth and once again travelled the world as soloist and conductor.
Pablo Casals died in Puerto Rico, where his mother was from, aged 97 years old. The Pablo Casals Festival, an annual chamber music engagement has survived him and endures still.
The Pablo Casals Festival and the Wonders of Chamber Music
Founded by the famous cellist and historical figure, the Pablo Casals festival is one of the busiest times of the season in Conflent, at the heart of the Canigou mountains, and a must-see for lovers of chamber music. As well as bringing together some wonderful artists, concerts take place in jewels of heritage such as the Abbey of St. Martin du Canigou or the Abbey of St. Michel de Cuixà. The Festival takes place every year from July 26th to August 13th.
Each year the Festival welcomes internationally renowned soloists. Additionally, as well as being without doubt one of the oldest existing festivals, it is also one of the most innovative in the search for new repertoires and talent.
Every year, there is an original itinerary of classical and contemporary chamber music with 40 to 45 events around a theme: 35 concerts, usually at 9.00pm in the Romanesque Abbey of St. Michel de Duixa for the exceptional acoustics, two to three concerts at 9.00pm in the Eglise de Prades, which has the largest altarpiece in France, 10 concerts at 5.30pm in the churches of Conflent and nine student concerts. There are also three to four conferences: meetings with composers such as Krzysztof Penderecky and personalities such as Hubert Reeves (astrophysician), Harry Halbreich (musicologist), etc.
We warmly thank the Association Tourisme en Conflent for the texts and various ressources that allowed us to build this page, as well as Joseph Molina for his beautiful pictures. Their website is a mine of useful information : check it out !