Casals full name was Pablo Carlos Salvador Casals y Defillo. That name is full of interesting information. One coincidence is that his name "Salvador" is also the name of a beach about four kilometers south of Vendrell, and a place of great importance in Casals' life. Casals first memory was of awakening from sleep, to the sound of the sea, and to the shifting dappled light in his room, reflected from the sea outside the guest house where he was vacationing with his family. Casals was only one year old then. The Playa San Salvador became the one spot on earth that Casals loved most, and to which he returned at least once a year for the first sixty years of his life.

Casal's Villa in San Salvador
Villa Casals, San Salvador

It was in San Salvador as a boy that Casals learned to swim, and where he eagerly soaked up stories of pirates and buried treasure, told him by an old crippled ex-sailor who had become caretaker of a museum there. The old sailor spoke Catalan, as did Casals, and bore the same given name, Pablo.

In 1908 while he was playing the viola da gamba obbligato to the Bach aria "It Is Finished," in the cathedral in Basel, Casals suddenly felt an overwhelming certainty that his father, Carlos, was dying. After the performance he canceled all his other obligations, and set off for Vendrell. When he arrived he found that his father had indeed died in Bonastre at the same time he was playing his cello in Switzerland. He was already buried in the cemetry in Vendrell at the time that Casals arrived at home.

After Pablo's father died, his mother, Dona Pilar, lived for a time in Bonastre, then in an apartment in Barcelona. But she was homesick for Puerto Rico, and nostalgic for earlier, happier years, and she asked Pablo to find a place for her, and for him, to live near the sea. Casals bought a piece of land at the farthest end of the empty beach in San Salvador (and later bought more, until he eventually owned fourteen acres there on the beach). Casal's mother began to design his home in San Salvador which would become an extremely important place in his life, and to which he would later devote much time and money.

Copyright © 1996, 1997 Marshall C. St. John