Rostropovich Speaks About Casals:

Just this year, 1996, EMI has released both a 2 cd audio production of Rostropovich playing the six Bach Suites, and a two cassette video edition. There is a booklet included with the 2 audio cds that puts in print what Rostropovich speaks and demonstrates on the video. By all means, buy the video! Not only does Rostropovich give a warm, meaningful performance of the suites on his cello, but he also sits at the piano and lectures on each suite before performing it. (He speaks in Russian, and there are English subtitles.) These lectures are only on the video, not on the audio cds. Many thanks are due to EMI for presenting cellists with this wonderful examination and performance of Bach's greatest work for the cello. Here is an excerpt from the booklet, in which Rostropovich recalls Pablo Casals.

"To my mind the greatest name in cello history is that of Pablo Casals. I had already heard his recordings in friends' homes in Moscow. Then in 1957 I was invited to attend the Casals Competition in Paris. I was to meet the great man himself beforehand, and he invited me to his hotel in Paris. I came and met this affable man, pipe in mouth, with a bald head--although now I realise that there's nothing wrong with being bald! He embraced me and said: "How can I thank you for coming? Let me play for you." He was only a couple of feet away from me--not a bit nervous about playing for me, but here he was with his bow and cello so close to me that my hands and legs started to tremble from sheer agitation because of the veneration in which I held this greatest of artists. He started to play the Allemande from the First Suite. His playing had an incredibly powerful effect on me.

After each phrase Casals had paused to observe intently (from behind his glasses) Rostropovich's reaction. He would then smile at seeing the agitation in Rostropovich's face before continuing with the next phrase.

" It was a rhapsodic interpretation of Bach, I'd say, like a dialogue, keenly aware phrase-by- phrase of the listener's reaction. When Casals played it seemed to me impossible to interpret Bach in any other way, such was the force of his personality and his nature as an artist, his total conviction in what he was doing. Therefore no copy can be authentic. A copy cannot reflect your own feelings or your own sense of phrasing, and is like a bottle without any wine in it. Casals played a great part in my life and in my love of Bach and music in general."

The words above are from the booklet accompanying Rostropovich's recent recording of the Bach Suites, copyright by SGOL Music Limited, under exclusive license to EMI Records, Ltd. The cd's are great, but I highly recommend that all cellists purchase these wonderful video tapes, in which Rostropovich's personality is captured so well.

Copyright © 1996, 1997 Marshall C. St. John