Casals at the turn of the century
Casals circa 1900

Casal's debut with the Lamoureux Orchestra in 1899 launched him on a touring career that would eventually make him famous around the world. He played the Saint-Saens concerto with Lamoureux in December of that year, again to rave reviews from the critics, and other cellists. In her book, The Great Cellists, Margaret Campbell quotes the French cellist Joseph Salmon who was at the performance: "...unbelievable!...Like listening to the work for the first time... Casals made it sound easy. We cellists were dumbfounded!" Casals became much admired by the Parisian public, and basked in the limelight. However, there must have been a tinge of bitterness, because Lamoureaux, his benefactor and sponsor now in a very real sense, died very shortly after this last concert with Casals, in January of 1900.

Though he soon became a world traveler, Casals called Paris "home," at least for a while. Paris was a beehive of artistic activity, full of wonderful writers, painters and musicians. Here Casals made friends with the likes of Degas, the painter; Henri Bergson, the philosopher; Ravel and Saint-Saens, the composers; and the musicians Ysaye, Thibaud and Cortot, with whom he made some justly famous early recordings.

Casals was busy performing, touring, and enjoying his friendships in Paris, but he also made it a point to find time to study other areas of knowledge, and to develop further his personal philosophy of life. He knew how to laugh and be happy, but he was essentially a serious-minded person. He thought deeply about himself, his career, and the meaning of life. According to Lillian Littlehales, writing in her book, Pablo Casals, he had an intense belief in the spiritual life of mankind, and "...his sensitive mind dwelt on religious and social questions to an almost dangerous degree." As so many young people do, and remember Casals was still a young man, he was swimming in deep waters, mentally. He even considered suicide. Littlehales also records that Casals found the writings of Karl Marx to be "a revelation." Politically and spiritually he became a "Socialist," and was determined to personally take a stand against the oppression of the common man by Fascism, or any other kind of tyranny. He eventually found his intellectual and spiritual footing, but these years of soul-searching and study were formative, and made a tremendous impact on the rest of his life, and eventually on the world at large. It was no accident that in 1958 it was Pablo Casals playing his cello on the floor of the General Assembly of the United Nations!

Copyright © 1996, 1997 Marshall C. St. John