Stephen De'ak was born in Hungary in 1897, and died in California in 1975. In 1973 De'ak wrote a biography of David Popper (author of the well-known "High School of Cello Playing," and many cello compositions). Here follows a second excerpt from De'ak's biography of Popper, in which we find Popper's contact with, and appreciation of, Pablo Casals.

David Popper
David Popper

"As I remember, the "Serenade" and "Chanson Villageoise" were on the program, and Casals played the "Mazurka" for one of his encores. We sat in the upper loge, in relative privacy. During the concert I watched Popper's reaction. His serious appraisal of the performance showed in the expression of his face, and he applauded after each number. But a slight puzzlement veiled the otherwise interested countenance. The striking difference between the prevailing bowing with loose wrist and straight thumb, and Casals' bowing, seemed most obvious when he played at the upper part of the bow without lowering his wrist, and compensated by the gradual pronation and elevation of his arm. But the upper arm position was radically altered when the bow was applied on the "C" string. It was drawn in close to the body, with wrist fairly straight. These observations were possible because our loge was located on the second floor of the concert hall almost above the right side of the podium.

"Another first impression was Casals' limited use of slides. These were accepted by nineteenth century string players as a technical device for large leaps, as well as for intensely expressive effects, without regard for the distortion of musical playing.

" Casals had developed his unique style with an unconventional kind of fingering which, among other things, employed frequent extensions. We were surprised and struck by his performance. His bowings and fingerings combined in the production of a flawless technical brilliance and a luminous tone, with infinite degrees of dynamic variation.

" Following the concert we did not attempt to go back stage to congratulate Casals. It was impossible to reach the artist's room because the entrance was blocked by hundreds of autograph seekers. I found out later that Popper and Casals had been involved in a discussion about gypsy music (probably in a restaurant or coffeehouse)."

Copyright © 1996, 1997 Marshall C. St. John