So it was that in the spring of 1939 I came to Prades. I could not have imagined at the time that I would spend the next seventeen years of my life in this little town in the Pyrenees. And in spite of the sorrow in me, I found respite in my surroundings. With its winding cobbled strees and whitewashed houses with red tiled roofs - and the acacia trees that were then in bloom - Prades might have been one of the Catalan villages I had known since childhood. The countryside seemed no less familiar to me. The lovely patterns of orchards an vineyards, the wild and craggy mountains with ancient Roman fortresses and monasteries clinging to their sides - these too were a replica of parts of my homeland. Indeed, centuries before, this very region had been part of the nation of Catalonia - from Joys and Sorrows by Pablo Casals
Today Prades wears its Casals connection lightly but proudly. There is no Café Casals in the main square, none of his recordings grace the shop windows and the two houses he lived in are private residences marked only by discrete plaques. In fact sleepy Prades has changed little from the delightful Catalan town described above. But the residents are intensely proud of their adopted son and he is remembered in the one room museum behind the modern mediathèque in the town centre. L'espace Casals is a perfect tribute: it is human in scale and when my wife and I were there recently on a perfect September morning it was just us and the master's recording of the Bach Cello Suites. These are my images of the great humanist who said:
A musician is also a man, but more important than his music is his attitude to life.
My Chance Music programme on Future Radio on November 7 is a homage to Catalonia built around the music of Pau Casals. Here is the playlist:
~ Pablo Casals Ovos omnes – Dresdner Kreuzchor directed by Gothart Stier (Berlin Classics 0013512BC)
~ Traditional Catalan El Noi de la Mare – Ferran Savall & Mario Mas guitars (Alia Vox AV9858)
~ J.S. Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 BWV 1049 – Casals Festival Orchestra conducted by Pablo Casals with Eugene Istomin piano (Membran 232768)
~ Anon Chant de la Sybille Occitane “El jorn del judizi” from The Forgotten Kingdom – Montserrat Figueras, La Capella Reial de Catalunya directed by Jordi Savall (Alia Vox AVSA9873)
~ John Jacob Niles/Thomas Merton A Responsory – Chad Runyon Baritone & Jacqueline Chew piano (MSR Classics MS1174)
~ Traditional arr. Pablo Casals Sant Martí del Canigó – Prades Festival Orchestra with Pablo Casals cello & conductor (Sony 88697656902)
* Background resources include In search of Pablo Casals for Casals' choral music and background on the life of the great Catalan musician, Early music unplugged for the Ferran Savall track, Are authentic performances a silly convention for Casals' Bach, Against the monoculture of modernity and Rearranging the geometry of heaven for Jordi Savall's The Forgotten Kingdom, Sweet Irrational Worship for the Niles/Merton song and The Magic Mountain for Sant Martí del Canigó.
** My musical homage to Catalonia can be heard as a podcast here.
*** Attitudes have, thankfully, changed since Joys and Sorrows was written forty years ago and I sympathise with those for who my headline may not sit comfortably. But that is how Pablo Casals expressed himself in 1970 and I have framed his words as a quote. My rule of thumb is to use important quotes unchanged despite their anachronistic phrasing.
**** Header quote is from Joys and Sorrows, reflections by Pablo Casals edited by Albert E. Khan (Macdonld ISBN 356030482) - out of print but well worth buying cheaply from specialists.
Also on Facebook and Twitter. All photos were taken by me in L'espace Casals, Prades and are (c) On An Overgrown Path 2010. Any other copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). All CDs, books and travel mentioned in this post were self-funded. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk