I returned to Paris for a visit shortly after the end of the war. It was an experience in which joy and sadness were strangely mingled. That jewel of a city evoked in me innumerable vivid memories. All about me as I walked its lovely boulevards and narrow streets were places that had been a dear and familiar part of my life. Here I had come as a young man to seek my career and had made my debut with Lamoureux at the turn of the century. Here I had first met Harold Bauer, Colonel Picquart, Cortot, Thibaud, and so many other treasured friends. Though five years had elapsed since I had lived in Paris, I felt as if it had been only yesterday. And yet, at the same time, that yesterday had a remote and dreamlike quality. It belonged, I knew, to a past that could not be recovered.
At the outbreak of the war, when I had given up my house at the Villa Molitor, I had packed many of my belongings in boxes and stored them in a small warehouse before leaving Paris. Now I went to collect them. I was dismayed at what I found. A scene of dreadful disorder! The boxes had been broken into-my books, musical works and correspondencd were scattered all over the floor. Most of the correspondence was gone. Among it, scores of letters from dear friends and former colleagues and acquaintances of mine-from Garnados, Saint-Saens, Richard Strauss, Julius Rontgen, Emanuel Moor and many others. These letters were very dear to me-voices that spoke of precious days and intimate thoughts we had shared-and I felt sickened at the idea of strange hands intruding among them. It was, I was given to understand, the work of the police. They had searched my belongings and taken whatever they desired. Of what I was suspected I still do not know-perhaps my being a foreigner was enough. In wartime anything is possible. In the hope of recovering my letters, I addressed several communications to the French government authorities. Perhaps, I thought, my letters were stored away in their official files. Perhaps they still are. Not long ago a friend of mine tried to intervene with the French writer, Andre Malraux, when he was Minister of Culture under de Gaulle, to find out if my letters were in the police files, but to no avail. At any rate, I never heard from the authorities or saw my letter again....
Throughout the twenty years in which I had lived abroad, I had known that sooner or later I would make my home again in Catalonia. Periodically, during my visits to San Salvador, my mother and I discussed the question of when I would return to stay. "You will know," she would say, "when the right time comes."
In 1919 I knew that the time had come.
That autumn I once more took up residence in Barcelona, and now I entered a phase of my career which I regard, in many ways, as the most fruitful of my life.
In Barcelona, at the time of my return, there were two symphony orchestras. They had no regular concert schedules-they played only on special occasions and rehearsed infrequently. When I heard them, I thought it was shocking that a city this size did not have something better to offer. Other major European cities had first-class orchestras. Why not Barcelona?
I asked the conductor of one of the orchestras if steps couldn't be taken to improve the situation. He said, "You've been away too long. You don't know Barcelona any more. There isn't the talent for a better orchestra." I went to the conductor of the other orchestra. The answer was the same.
I told both conductors I'd be glad to cooperate in any way I could. If they wished, I said, I'd play for them. If more financial backing were needed, I would raise it. They were not interested.
Originally I had not the slightest intention of forming an orchestra of my own. True, I had a passion for conducting that dated back, I think, to the time I sang in my father's choir; and over the years I had conducted in Paris, London, New York, Vienna and other cities. The cello had never given me full satisfaction, any more than it does now. Not merely because of the endless work and the hateful nervousness before performances. But also because of the instrument's limitations. The one instrument without limitations is the orchestra. It encompasses all others. Early in my career I wrote my friend, the composer Julius Rontgen, "If I've been so happy up until now scratching the cello, think how happy I'll be when I possess that greatest of all instruments-the orchestra!" But not until I met with that reguff from the two conductors in Barcelona had I really thought of forming my own orchestra. Then I decided, "All right, if they won't build a good orchestra, I'll do it myself!"
Making the decision was one thing-carrying it out was another. I expected certain problems, but I had no idea of the difficulties I'd encounter. The present has an inertia of its own, and there are always people who regard change as if it were a personal threat! I found opposition in almost every quarter to my idea of starting a new orchestra in Barcelona. Wherever I sought cooperation-among professors at the music schools, composers, civic leaders-I was told another orchestra wasn't wanted or it wasn't feasible. The press carried articles ridiculing my idea. Practically no one was willing to offer financial backing. One wealthy man told me, "I prefer bullfighting to music anyway."
As the weeks passed, my frustration mounted. The only encouragement came from my mother, my brother Enruque, and a handful of close friends. Even some of the latter said I was quixotic to continue the struggle. But Don Quixote of course was himself a native of Spain. Anyway, I kept tilting at the windmill!
If I couldn't raise the necessarfy funds to start the orchestra, I decided, I'd provide them myself, out of my savings. I went to the musicians' union and asked them what they currently earned. The figure was appallingly low. "How can a family live on that?" I asked. They said, "We have to work at other jobs. It is the only thing possible in Barcelona." I told them, "All right, we'll change that. Every musician in my orchestra will receive double that amount."
I combed the city for musicians-I auditioned them by the dozens. Few had had orchestral experience; some had never played professionally; but that was not my criterion. I selected my musicians on the basis of their potentialities. Finally, I had chosen eighty-eight. They formed the embryo of the Orquestra Pau Casals.
It was natural for me to use the Catalan name "Pau" in preference to the Spanish "Pablo." When I was young, it was still the custom in Catalonia to use Spanish baptismal names. And so I'd been called Pablo. But I later came to much prefer my Catalan name-Catalan, after all, is the true language of my perple. More than once I'd told my managers I wanted to use the name "Pau" in my concert tours. But they'd argue, "Audiences have come to think of you as Pablo Casals. Nobody will know who Pau Casals is." But now, in naming my own orchestra, I no longer felt under this restriction.
I told the eighty-eight musicians I had picked, "We will become an orchestra that will bring to our city music worthy of the people of Catalonia!"
My understaning with the musicians was that we would rehearse twice daily-at nine in the morning and five in the afternoon. But on the every day before the date set for our first rehearsal, a calamity overtook me. The strain of the previous months of organizing, with all the frustrations and petty details, had been too much. There had been too many sleepless nights, too many anxious days. I fell ill-the doctors said I had collapsed from nervous exhaustion. My illness was complicated by an unfortunate episode. I had difficulty with an eye irritation-my irises were badly inflamed-and a famous oculist treated me. He gave me an injection of some sort. Almost the moment he did so, my head fell to one side and I couldn't move it. I began to perspire so much that my mattress was soaked. A few hours later the doctor's nurse came and gave me a second injection-she didn't know I'd already had one. Then I could not move at all. When my family saw how sick I was, they called our own physician. He was astounded when he learned about the injections-he said the dosage I'd received was enought to kill a horse! And so, with my orchestra finally ready to start work, I was confined to my bed in a helpless condition.
I knew that to cancel the first rehearsal would be psychologically the worst possible thing to do-if I failed at this crucial moment to go ahead as planned, the whole orchestra was likely to fall apart. I didn't inform the musicians of my illness until they were gathered at the concert hall. Then I sent a message asking them to keep assembling each day until I was able to join them.
When the first week was over, I saw that all the orchestra members were paid their salaries. They continued meeting without me for a second week. A delegation then came to see me. "Maestro," they said, "we cannot go on with this arrangement. You are spending a fortune. We cannot accept your money and do nothing."
I knew how much depended on my answer. I told them, "I appreciate your coming. But I must insist on its being this way. You keep your end of the contract, and I'll keep mine. The orchestra should continue to meet daily at nine and five until I'm well enough to conduct rehearsals." I wanted them to realize how serious I was about the whole undertaking.
And so, day after day, while I remained bedridden, they continued to meet. Sometimes they would discuss different compositions; occasionaly Enrique-he was first violinist-conducted some work. The days stretched into weeks....
At the end of two months, when it was time for summer vacation, I'd recovered sufficiently to go and address the orchestra. I thanked them for the faith they had shown in me and told them I looked forward to working with them in the fall. Now, I knew, they understood I was serious.
That fall we began rehearsing in earnest. Those musicians who were inexperienced in orchestral playing had much to learn; and those with some experience had-because of bad habits to overcome-perhaps to learn even more! The only solution was work. At the outset I spent hours and hours on a rudimentary orchestral exercise. I took Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries"-a work which many of the musicians knew by rote and were accustomed to play carelessly and out of tune-and I went over it with them again and again, until they came to understand the importance of being conscious of every note and treating it with respect.
I also stressed that each musician must learn to play, on the one hand, as if he were a soloist and , on the other, with the constant awareness of being an indispensable part of a team. It is this quality of human teamwork-the sense of being one of a group working together to achieve the ultimate in beauty-that has always afforded me a joy as a conductor that no solo performance can duplicate.
"We share a great privilege," I told the musicians, "the privilege of bringing masterpieces to life. We also share a sacred responsibility. We are entrusted with the duty of interpreting these masterpieces with utter integrity."
To be a true conductor, one must interpret truly. Above all, a conductor must fully understand the work he is performing-he must understand not only all of its technical aspects, and the role of every instrument, but also the music's inner meaning and the nature of the work as a whole. That understanding cannot be static but, like life itself, must constantly grow. No matter how often I have conducted a work, I study it intensively in preparation for each performance, annotating the score for days and sometimes weeks before the rehearsals, as if I were conducting the work for the first time. And invariably I discover something new. With my own orchestra, of course, I followed this procedure.
But mastery of the music is in itself not enough. A conductor must be able to impart his thoughts to the musicians-not by imposing his will on them but by convincing them of the value of his concepts. It is not only what you say that is important but also how you say it. The most profound truth can sometimes be wasted if it is expressed rudely or arrogantly. One must recognize and respect the feelings of the musicians. "You are not servants of mine," I told the members of my orchestra. "We are all servants of the music."
We gave our first concert in October of that year. I approached the affair with considerable anxiety. When I saw the audience, my heart sank. How many empty chairs there were in the Palau de la Musica Catalana! But the reaction of the audience was enthusiastic, and the critics expressed surprise at the quality of the music.
And so my orchestra was launched.
Success did not come overnight. We had a long struggle-intensive work with our music and many organizational problems. We gave two series of concerts a year-one in the spring, one in the autumn. In the winters I continued my own concert tours, giving performances on the cello and occasionally appearing as a guest conductor. Those tours now served a special purpose-they helped provide for my orchestra. Despite growing support from the community, seven years elapsed before the orchestra was fully self-sustaining. In the meantime, I made up each season's deficit.
But each season more and more music lovers rallied to our support. And the day came, in fact, when those very journals that had once scoffed at the idea of the orchestra were boasting it was one of Barcelona's outstanding cultural institutions and had made the city known as a center for symphonic music. If I mention this with pride, it is not from personal vanity. There were eighty-nine of us who produced the music!
I think I can say that we fulfilled our pledge of bringing to Barcelona music worthy of our people. There were rarely vacant seats at our concerts. Looking at those wonderful audiences, I sometimes thought of the persons who had said the citizens of Barcelona wanted only cafe music!
Occasionally, my mother attended the concerts, but she came rarely. It made her suffer to be there, because she knew how nervous I was. She would wait up for me to come home after the performances. And then she would simply say, "Are you satisfied, Pablo?" I would say, "Yes, Mother." And then she would sleep....
My orchestra's programs consisted to a considerable extent of the classics-the great works of Beethoven, Bach, Hayden, Mozart, Brahms, Schumann. But we also frequently played outstanding contemporary works,and I made a special point of including in our programs the music of modern Spanish and Catalan composers-Granados, Albeniz, Manuel de Falla, Juli Garreta, and others.
Of these contemporary composers, I think that in many ways the most unusual was Juli Garreta. In some music encyclopedias you will not even find his name, but he was a phenomenon, a genius of the rarest sort. I can think of no other composer who with his type of background produced such works as Garreta's. He never had a single lesson in his life-he was absolutely self-taught. He came from Sant Feliu de Guixols, a little seaside town about three hours from Barcelona. As a young man he had been a common laborer and then he had taken up the trade of clockmaking. But music was his passion. How he acquired his profound knowledge of music is to me almost incomprehensible-though, of course, he did hear church music and traveling musicians, and he studied every score he could get his hands on. He had a little room near his clock shop, and he would retire to it whenever possible and stay there writing music by the hour. Some of his works were extraodinary-with a universal quality. The music of Granados, one might say, shows especially the influence of Madrid and Andalusia-it is music of Spanish derivation, that is. But much of Garret's work is above national origin, pure music of the highest order. He wrote many sardanas, lovely sardanas, but he also wrote songs, chamber music, symphonic works: works of major scope, marvelous in structure and melodic content. He had an incredible facility. Naturally, his clock business suffered-the clocks sat unrepaired on his shelves while he composed. Finally he lost all his customers. He moved to Barcelona, and, in order to eat, he got a job playing a piano in a cabaret. It was then I met him. We became greatly attached to one another. He was a very small, quiet man-as quiet as a mouse and as timid. He dressed very neatly, though he had perhaps only one suit of clothes. Sometimes I visited the cabaret where Garreta played. It was a third-rate cabaret, noisy and smoke-filled with a tawdry atmosphere. I never wanted to go there-it made me feel like weeping to see that wonderful artist playing in such a place. When not at the cabaret, he could always be found composing in the nearby, shabbily furnished room where he lived. What music poured out of that little man! I introduced a number of his works with my orchestra. He would bring me compositions he had finished and shyly give them to me for my comment. When I conducted one of his works, he would come to the concert, and the next night he would be back at the cabaret. Without Garreta's knowledge, I arranged for the orchestra to pay him a certain sum of money each month to help him and his wife exist. His wife continued to get the pension after he died.
There was in Juli Garreta the seed of a great master-a seed that never fully flowered because it lacked proper nurturing. I have always believed that if Garreta had had some outstanding teacher, he might have developed into another Brahms or Beethoven. He died when he was in his late forties, at the height of his creativity....
Some of the most memorable of my orchestra's concerts were directed by guest conductors. Friz Busch, Koussevitzky, Richard Strauss, Pierre Monteux, Klemperer, Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, and other eminent conductors and composers came to Barcelona at my invitation. I derived a particular pleasure from their concerts, and also from those that featured the performances of distinguished guest artists-some of whom were old friends and colleagues of mine, like Thibaud, Cortot, Kreisler and Harold Bauer.
Of all such concerts, the one that stands out most sharply in my memory took place in the spring of 1927 during the music festival we held in Barcelona to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the death of Beethoven. Several months before, I had visited my dear friend, Eugene Ysaye, in Brussels. He was then almost seventy and had stopped playing the violin. His last public performance, in fact, had been very disappointing. I knew he grieved over this fact, and when I saw him, I thought how wonderful it would be if he could take part in the Beethoven centennial. I was convinced he was still capable of a magnificent performance. So I said to him, "Eugene, you must come and play the Beethoven violin concerto at our festival."
He stared at me in astonishment. "But, Pablo," he said, "that's impossible!"
"I haven't played the Beethoven concerto in fourteen years."
I told him, "No matter. You can play."
"You really believe so?"
I know it. You can and you will."
His face looked suddenly youthful. He said, "Perhaps the miracle will happen!"
And he agreed to make the effort.
Several weeks after I had returned to Barcelona, I received a letter from Ysaye's son Antoine. He was greatly disturbed. He questioned whether I should ever have raised his father's hopes that he might play again. "If only you could see my dear father," he wrote, "if you could see him working every day, playing scales slowly and laboriously hour after hour. It is a tragedy, and we cannot help weeping over it." The letter wrung my heart. Had I done the right thing, after all? Still, deep inside me, I felt Ysaye would play again.
The time came for the festival, and Ysaye arrived in Barcelona. He was terribly nervous at the rehearsal, and-though I was careful not to show it-I was worried too. And when I took my place on the podium on the evening of Ysaye's performance and looked at him, I was filled with apprehension. He moved so slowly-he seemed weary-and suddenly I thought, he is old, have I done my friend a great injustice?
I lifted my baton, and he raised his violin to his chin...and, with the first notes, I knew that all was well! In some passages it seemed he might falter, and I felt his nervousness throughout. But there were many moments of the great Ysaye, and the effect as a whole was overwhelming.
Once again, as so often in the past, I was lost in the wonder of his music. The ovation at the end was frenzied. Then Ysaye took my place on the podium and conducted Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony and afterwards the Triple concerto with Cortot, Thibaud and me playing....
In the dressing room after the concert Ysaye was overcome with emotion. He kissed my hands and wept, exclaiming "Resurrection!"
The next day I saw my friend off at the station. He was leaning out of the carriage window talking to me and clasping my hands as the train started slowly to move. He kept hold of me as if he didn't want us to separate, and I moved along the platform with the train. Then, as it gathered speed, he suddenly thrust something into my hands. The train pulled away with Ysaye waving from the window. Then I saw what I was holding, and I knew at that moment that he had wanted to leave with me something-anything-which was, you might say, a part of himself. I was holding Ysaye's pipe.
In spite of the success that had come to the Orquestra Pau Casals, there was one thing about our concerts that continued to disturb me. Our music, I felt, reached too limited an audience-largely those who were comfortably off, well-to-do. The working people, generally speaking, could not afford the concert tickets. Those few who could scrape together the money sat in the cheapest gallery seats, and I felt that when they looked down on the gentry luxuriously seated in the stalls and boxes they were likely to be distracted by thoughts that had little to do with music. The idea of giving free concerts didn't appeal to me. I was conscious of the dignity of working people, and I knew they had little desire to receive what might seem charity. I wanted the men and women from the factories and the shops and waterfront to be able to hear our music and enjoy it. After all, they were the people who had produced most of the wealth of our country-why, then, should they be kept from sharing its cultural riches?
My thoughts on the subject had been influenced by the achievements of that remarkable Catalan patriot and lover of music, Jose Anselmo Clave. Clave had died in 1874, two years before I was born, but I felt toward him as if he had been my close friend. He came from the working class and was a weaver by trade. He played the guitar and taught himself to compose music and songs. His songs dealt with simple, tender themes-with experiences of poor children, with stories about peasants and fishermen, with the beauty of nature and love of Catalonia. Gradually his songs became known among Barcelona workers, and small groups began meeting in the factories to sing them after working hours. Clave knew what bleakness and poverty existed for the working class, and he wanted to help bring some beauty into their lives. He conceived the idea of organizing permanent choral groups among the workers. And he achieved fantastic results. Under his inspiration, wonderful choral societies of workers and their families evolved not only in Barcelona but in towns throughout Catalonia. Their membership grew into thousands, and their movement had a major impact on the cultural awakening then under way in Catalonia. Such world-famous choral societies as the Orfeo Catala and the Orfeo Gracienc were part of the legacy of Clave's work. This worker-musician became so popular that when he was in his early forties he was elected governor of Tarragona!
After Clave's death, a statue was erected to his memory in the Plaza de Cataluna in Bacelona. When I passed it, I would think of this good man and his splendid accomplishments. I asked myself-if Clave had organized choral societies among the workers, would it not be possible to create a workingmen's society for concert music? A plan for such an organization took shape in my mind.
Once my orchestra was on a sound footing, I moved to implement my plan. I visited a workers' night school which sponsored occasional cultural activities among the unions, and I told the school's officials about my ideas for bringing concert music to working people. They listened very politely, but I sensed a certain skepticism in their attitude.A few days later a small delegation of workers came to see me-they came directly from their jobs, still wearing their overalls and blouses. They asked very probing questions. They wanted especially to know who would direct and control the organization I envisioned.
I told them, "It will be run entirely by you. I will simply put my orchestra at your disposal for a specified number of concerts each year. Also, I will play for you myself and arrange for the appearance of other soloists."
"Who will pay for this?"
"Your concert association will charge a membership fee of six pesetas a year," I told them-six pesetas then amounted to about a dollar. "This will entitle the members to attend the special concerts given by my orchestra."
"And all of this for six pesetas?"
"Yes, all for six pesetas."
The delegation went away. They discussed my plan with the unions and other workers' organizations. It was decided to give the plan a trial. An organization was established called Associacio Obrera de Concerts-the Workingmen's Concert Association. The qualification for joining were simple: Membership was restricted to those whose monthly earnings were less than five hundred pesetas-which was about a hundred dollars in those days.
The Orquestra Pau Casals gave its first workers' concert on a Sunday morning in the fall of 1928 at the Olympia Theater in Barcelona. More than two thousand workers crowded into the concedrt hall. When I looked at those rows of simply dressed men and women waiting for the concert to start, I felt an indescribable elation. At the end of the performance, the entire audience arose and gave the orchestra a thunderous ovation. Then they started chanting my name. Those shouts of the working people of Barcelona, I think, meant more to me than any applause I had ever received.
My orchestra began giving a series of six Sunday morning concerts a year for the Workingmen's Concert Association. Its membership grew at an amazing rate. Branches of the Association, and choral groups affiliated with it, sprang up all over Catalonia.
At one point I suggested that the Association publish a music periodical of its own.
"Who will write for it?" they asked.
"And about what?"
"About their reactions to the music they hear at the concerts and similiar subjects."
They began publishing a magazine called Fruicions. And not only were they astonished by the results-I was too! These were the titles of some articlels in a tyical issue: "The Relation of Art and Ideas," "The Late Quartets of Beetoven," "Stravinsky and Rhythm," "In Appreciation of Schubert."
Within a few years after the Association's formation, when the Spanish Republic had come into being, the organization had its own music library and its own music school-which Enrique and I helped establish. The Association formed its own orchestra, composed entirely of workers, and gave concerts on Sundays in Barcelona snd other industrial centers of Catalonia-sometimes they performed in hospitals and prisons. Musicians, critics and musicologists came from other countries to sudy the Association and its activities.
My orchestra's concerts for the Association became so popular that when we began holding daytime comcerts during the working week, government offices would close down so that their employees might attend the performances.
By then the membership of the Association and its affiliates numbered in the tens of thousands in Catalonia. I used to say that if I had wanted to make a revolution using only the Associastion members, we could doubtless have seized power!
If the accomplishments of the Workingmen's Concert Association gave me great happiness-and no musical undertaking has ever given me more-there were other aspects of the lives of Catalan workers in those postwar years which caused me deep distress. During the early 1920's there was widespread unemployment and social unrest in Catalonia. Many went hungry-you saw beggars everywhere. When workers' demonstrations and strikes broke out in Barcelona and other cities, the Spanish government took harsh measures to suppress them. Once again martial law was instituted. Many workers were imprisoned or deported. The situation was aggravated when the Spanish army suffered a series of catastrophic defeats in Morocco-almost twenty thousand soldiers were killed by the Riff tribes led by Abd-el-Krim. Protests against the war swept Catalonia. On every side you heard the demand that the responsabilidados- the "responsible ones"-be brougfht to account. More and more people spoke out for the independence of Catalonia and the right to determine their own destiny. Instead there came the military dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and with it, during the next years, more repressions, more imprisonments, more Catalan patriots sent into exile-among them the great Catalan leader who is now a legend, Colonel Francesc Macia. The population seethed with resentment.
It was inevitable that my own thoughts and work were affected by this atmosphere-one cannot, of course, separate music from life. My support of Catalan autonomy was well known, and on one occasion I was involved in an episode that almost precipitated a national scandal.
The spark that set off this incident was a speech that King Alfonso delivered during a visit to Barcelona. It was a very foolish speech. In it he referred to himself as the successor of King Philip V of Spain, who was especially despised by Catalans because he had robbed Catalonia in the eighteenth century of many of her ancient liberties. The citizens of Barcelona were outraged by Alfonso's words. I myself was greatly disturbed. Perhaps, I thought, he hadn't realized their implication-perhaps he had been ill-advised. Shortly afterwards, on one of my periodic visits to the palace in Madrid, I decided to tell the Queen Mother, Maria Cristina, about the anger in Barcelona and to urge that Alfonso do something to rectify his mistake. But when I brought up the subject, Queen Maria Cristina hardly seemed to hear what I was saying. She quickly switched the conversation into other channels and began asking me about my concert tours and my orchestra. I left the palace with a feeling of dejection and foreboding.
However, not much later-and perhaps, indeed, because my talk with Dona Maria Cristina had more effect than I realized-King Alfonso did make what seemed a conciliatory gesture toward the people of Catalonia. It was announced that he and his wife, Queen Victoria-would attend the opening of the International Exposition being held that year in Barcelona. Prior to Alfonso's arrival, I received a message from him saying he would like to come to one of my orchestra's concerts and would appreciate the program's including a cello performance by me. Though I ordinarily did not play at concerts of the Orquestra Pau Casals, I made arrangements to comply with his request.
The audience that gathered at the Liceu Opera House that evening included members of the court, leading government officials, high army officers, and the social elite of Barcelona. The first half of the program was concluded before the arrival of the royal party. Toward the end of the intermission I received word backstage that the king and queen and their entourage were about to enter the theater. I was asked to conduct the Royal March-which was then the Spanish anthem. Since I was about to play the cello, I felt it appropriate that Enrique conduct the anthem and requested him to do so. Immediately there was a great to-do. My failing to lead the orchestra, I was told, could be construed as an affront to Their Majesties. Emissaries scurried back and forth while the royal party waited outside the theater and the intermission was prolonged. It was finally agreed to proceed as I had suggested.
When the king entered the hall, he was greeted by only a scattering of applause. There was a perceptible chill in the atmosphere. I had a presentiment that something drastic was about to happen. And it did! The moment I stepped onstage with my cello, pandemonium broke loose. Throughout the auditorium people rose to their feet, applauding and shouting. Ladies waved their handkerchiefs. The audience kept applauding until the royal party too arose in their box. Then, all at once, someone in the audience shouted, "Casals is our king!" I stood there not knowing what to do. I was terribly embarrassed. I knew of course that this was not really an ovation for me-it was a political demonstration. As the uproar continued, police officers appeared and hustled a number of demonstrators from the hall. Gradually the hubbub subsided, and I was able to proceed with my performance. Whenever members of the royal family had attended past performances of mine, I had been invited to join them in their box at the end of the concert. This time there was no invitation.
I was extremely upset afterwards. Not only did the incident constitute an insult to the king but he was, after all, my guest at the concert. I was saddened too by the thought that this might mean the end of my friendship with the royal family. At the same time, of course, I could not apologize. I knew how the Catalans still felt about Alfonso's reference to King Philip V, and I shared that feeling.
Some weeks later a remarkable thing happened. I was in Paris when the Spanish ambassador came to see me. He told me that King Alfonso wanted me to give a cello performance in Madrid on the occasion of a state visit by King Victor Emmanuel and Queen Elena of Italy. I gladly consented. The concert-it was held in the sumptuous Hall of Arms-was a most impressive affair. The hall, lit by cnadlelight, was filled with ladies in beautiful gowns, officers in colorful uniforms, and members of the various diplomatic corps. Seated in the front row of the audience were the royal families of Spain and Italy. When I had played my concluding work, Alfonso came up and engaged me in conversation. In accordance with protocol, the audience remained standing while he stood and talked. He kept on talking, about all sorts of things-about the games we'd played together when he was a small boy, about my mother, about my brothers, Luis and Enrique. And all this time, the other members of the Spanish royal family, the King and Queen of Italy, and all the assembled dignitaries stood-as if at attention. I realized that Alfonso was doing this deliberately. Finally, with a smile, he said to me, "Pablo, I want you to know how happy I was to see how much the Catalan people love you." With that, he turned and walked away.
The next day the newspapers were full of the story of how the king had kept everyone standing while he talked to me -it created quite a scandal. After all, I was only a musician, and a Catalan at that! But I knew it was Alfonso's way of acknowledging the mistake of his speech in Barcelona and of saying that we understood one another.