Casals, Thibaud and Cortot
Casals, Thibaud and Cortot

When Casals returned to Europe in 1904, he and his friends Alfred Cortot, the pianist, and Jacques Thibaud, the violinist, formed a trio, which was world famous for many years. The trio often performed premiers of new works, and set the highest standards in the performance of classical trios. They made early recordings of the great chamber music repertoire, and some of those recordings are still available today.

In 1926 the trio recorded the Schubert Trio in B Flat Major, with Angel, and it is still one of the finest performances to be found, in spite of the inferior recording techniques of the day. Casals recalled toward the end of his life, "Our association, which was really based on music and friendship, lasted many years. We traveled all over Europe together, I rember it vividly and associate it with the cult of music and friendship." Casals praised Cortot as being "...unquestionably one of the greatest pianists of our time. He had boundless elan and astonishing power." Casals said Thibaud was "...a consumate instrumentalist--he played the violin with incomparable elegance." (Quotes are from "Pablo Casals," by Frederic V. Grunfeld, 1982)

Pablo Casals toured Russia as a performing cellist the first time in 1905, a very inconvenient time to be a traveling musician in Russia. Russia had been at war with Japan for a year, and had just signed the Treaty of Portsmouth with Japan in September of 1905. Tsar Nicholas had promised the Russian people an elected assembly, but it had not materialized. The country was full of unrest. Many workers went on strike after strike. 1905 was the year of the unsuccessful first Russian Revolution. (It was the revolution of 1917 that succeeded in overthrowing the imperial Russian government, and established Communism.) In one of Casal's concerts the electricity went out in the hall where he was performing, and the recital continued by candlelight.

The people, and the music lovers of Russia, received Casals warmly, in spite of the circumstances, and Casals returned to tour Russia on a regular basis. There he became friends with many Russian musicians, including Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Alexander Scriabin and Serge Koussevitzky. Casals performed the Brahms Double Concerto in Moscow with violinist Eugene Ysaye. The great Belgian violinist wrote to his wife, describing Casals as a profound artist with an ear for detail, yet also having the deepest musical feeling and emotion in the depths of his soul.

Copyright © 1996, 1997 Marshall C. St. John