Gaspar Cassadó was one of the greatest cellists and most well-rounded musicians of the 20th century. Today, he is largely remembered for a handful of pieces for cello, which represent only a small fraction of his output as a composer. The list of works which follows comes from the collection of his manuscripts, and publication of many previously unknown pieces is being planned. Many of these works deserve a place in the cello repertoire, and some of the chamber pieces also deserve more frequent performance, particularly the Piano Trio. Publication of more of Cassadó's music will undoubtedly increase interest in his work.
Most cellists today have never heard Cassadó play; until very recently, virtually none of his recordings were in print. The VOX label has reissued some of his concerto recordings from the early 1960s, but these performances do not show Cassadó at his best. One nice feature of the two CD set is that it includes a performance of Cassadó's arrangement of the Arpeggione Sonata for cello and orchestra, which most people have never heard. The additional passages that Cassadó wrote and inserted in Schubert's original are quite interesting, though it cannot be said that they blend in seamlessly.
More recently, the French label LYS has released two CDs of Cassadó's recordings from the 1930s, when he was at the peak of his powers. One CD contains concerto recordings, made with the Berlin Philharmonic. The most interesting performance is of the Concerto in D by Tartini, which features an organ part which can charitably be described as inauthentic. The other CD features short pieces, including several by Cassadó himself, and here he best displays his remarkable abilities as a cellist and as a performer. Even on these old 78 transfers, Cassadó' s captivating sound and singer's sense of phrasing come across beautifully.
There can be little doubt that Cassadó would be more widely remembered today if the events of 1949 not taken place. Had Cassadó held onto his contract with Columbia Records, more people would now know his unique style of playing. Though only a few recordings exist of Cassadó in his prime, they reveal that he was a remarkable virtuoso and a highly communicative performer, and place him among the 20th century's greatest cellists. His additional achievements as arranger and composer set him apart from all but a few instrumentalists, and make him one of the most interesting musical figures of the 20th century.
© Copyright by Nathaniel J. Chaitkin, 2001.
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