My great wish was to hear Pablo Casals. One day my desire was "Mr. Casals," I was introduced to a little bald man with a pipe.
He "Bravo! Bravo! Wonderful!" Casals applauded. Francesco brought "Splendid! Magnifique!" said Casals, embracing me. "Bewildered, I left the house. I knew how badly I had played, but "The greater was my shame and delight when, a few years later, I
almost fulfilled and I met him. But ironically, it was I who had to
play. It was in the home of the Von Mendelssohns, a house filled
with El Grecos, Rembrandts, and Stradivarius. Francesco von
Mendelssohn, the son of the banker, who was a talented cellist,
telephoned and asked if he could call for me; they had a guest in
the house who would like to hear me play.
said that he was pleased to meet young musicians such as Serkin
and me. Rudolf Serkin, who stood stiffly next to me, seemed , like
myself, to be fighting his diffidence. Rudi had played before my
arrival, and Casals now wanted to hear us together. Beethoven's D-
Major Sonata was on the piano. "Why don't you play it?" asked
Casals. Both nervous and barely knowing each other, we gave a
poor performance that terminated somewhere in the middle.
the Schumann Cello Concerto, which Casals wanted to hear. I
never played worse. Casals asked for Bach. Exasperated, I obliged
with a performance matching the Beethoven and Schumann.
why did he, the master, have to praise and embrace me? This
apparent insincerity pained me more than anything else.
met Casals in Paris. We had dinner together and played duets for
two cellos, and I played for him until late at night. Spurred by his
great warmth, and happy, I confessed what I had thought of his
praising me in Berlin. He reacted with sudden anger. He rushed to
the cello, "Listen!" He played a phrase from the Beethoven sonata.
"Didn't you play this fingering? Ah, you did! It was novel to me...it
was good...and here, didn't you attack that passage with up-bow,
like this? he demonstrated. He went through Schumann and Bach,
always emphasizing all he liked that I had done. "And for the rest,"
he said passionately, "leave it to the ignorant and stupid who judge
by counting only the faults. I can be grateful, and so must you be,
for even one note, one wonderful phrase." I left with the feeling of
having been with a great artist and a friend.
My thanks to the International Cello Society web site for originally pointing me to this gem: "..."an excerpt from Piatigorsky's book, in which he writes of an encounter with
Pablo Casals, that reveals Casal's prodigious memory, attention to minute detail, and
My great wish was to hear Pablo Casals. One day my desire was
"Mr. Casals," I was introduced to a little bald man with a pipe.
"Bravo! Bravo! Wonderful!" Casals applauded. Francesco brought
"Splendid! Magnifique!" said Casals, embracing me.
"Bewildered, I left the house. I knew how badly I had played, but
"The greater was my shame and delight when, a few years later, I