The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (90): Strictly for the birds

I saw Casals preside over a choral performance of this magnificent ode to nature and freedom in, I think, 1970. The Toronto principal Joseph Johnson performs it beautifully.

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  • Good to see other cellists following Casals. He rehearses “El Pessebre” o a YouTube video, and rcorded “Song of theBirds”, recalling Schumann’s late “Songs of the Early Morn” (“Gesaenge des Fruehes” ).

    Yesterday my wife was listening to Bach cello suites played by another, no names. Not satisfied, she asked me to find Casals. His first notes put things right.

    He used to rise in his home in Puerto Rico, birthplace of his mother, and play “Song of the Birds” first thing, for himself and the birds. Then he moved to the piano to play a Bach chorale, “like a blesing on the house”, he said. Then he might play a Bach suite, then another, sometimes all six, then totter into t he kitchen and tell Maria he thought he felt a little tired that morning.

    He was a good pianist and can be heard accompanying Victoria de los Angeles in Brahms Lieder. A great cellist, a great man, very Spanish in nature, incomparable in Bach suites, especially th preludes and sarabandes.

    On Columbia’s LP with “Song of the Birds” he plays a transcribed Adagio with piano from a Bach organ piece, centering in on the intensifying phrases tonally in an altogether extraordinarily heightened way.

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