When Casals returned to Barcelona, Providence smiled on him, and his life took a turn for the good. Just as he reached home, his old cello teacher, Jose Garcia, retired from teaching to move to Buenos Aires. Casals was lucky enough to take over Garcia's position at the Municipal School, along with Garcia's students. Casals was also asked to direct music at the local church.

St. Ann's Church in Vendrell
St. Ann's Church

Pablo Casals was now twenty-one years old, and his musical life began to take wing and fly. He stayed in Barcelona three years, and was quite busy with his cello. He was asked to teach at the conservatory of the Lycee. He became first cellist of the Barcelona Opera Orchestra. He formed a string quartet with Mathieu Crickboom, the famous Belgian violinist, the violist Galvez and the pianist/composer Enrique Granados. He continued to study composition. He was reconciled with Count Morphy, who earlier had tried to get him to study in Belgium. He traveled to Madrid to see the Count. While there he was asked to perform for Queen Christina, who had always been an admirer of the young Pablo. Before leaving her court, she gave him a wonderful sapphire from a bracelet she was wearing. Later, Casals had the sapphire mounted in his bow.

Casals performed all over the area, not just in Barcelona and Madrid. He was asked to direct a group of six musicians who provided music at the Casino of Espinjo in Portugal. The Casino was a popular place for the upper crust to gamble, and Casals began to gain a reputation among the wealthy and nobility who frequented the place. At the end of his first summer at the Casino, Casals was invited by the King and Queen of Portugal to visit the palace in Lisbon. When Casals arrived in Lisbon, he suddenly realized that he had been so excited about meeting the Portuguese King and Queen, that he had forgotten to bring his cello on the train with him! But the royal couple were patient, his cello was sent for, and his late performance was well received.

Returning from Portugal to Barcelona, he again passed through Madrid. While there he gave his first performance of the Lalo Concerto in D Minor, accompanied by an orchestra. He played with the Sociedad de Conciertos Orchestra, conducted by Tomas Breton, the famous composer. The Queen Mother of Spain was at the concert, and was, as always, very appreciative of Casal's playing. She invited him to the palace, where she gave him a Gagliano cello with a beautiful tone. She had earlier bestowed upon the young musician his first Spanish decoration, the "Chavalier of the Cross of Isabel la Catolica." She also gave him the "Order of Carlos III." Years before, when Casals had still been a student, he had often gone to the palace to play duets with the Queen, who played piano.

Copyright © 1996, 1997 Marshall C. St. John