May 18, 1918
Page 27
A Casals’s Summer Retreat on the Shores of the Mediterranean

Greatest Creative Men of Spain Gather at Celebrated ‘Cellist’s Villa—Latter Has Enchanting Setting—Bach’s (Piano) Works Come First on Artist’s Daily Schedule—Perfect Days That End Perfectly


“The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystaline
Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser
I CANNOT do better than to quote these lines of Shelley as a beginning to an attempt at describing the place in which Pablo Casals, the famous Spanish ‘cellist, spends his summers. It is of his life in his own home that I wish to give a picture. But it will be difficult to approach the splendid reality of the glorious days that I have spent there.
Each year Mr. Casals returns from his arduous winter’s work to his own home near Barcelona in Spain, a haven of beauty and rest, that brings to him renewed vigor and musical inspiration. His villa is situated on the sands of the Mediterranean, thirty yards away from the water. No more ideal spot can be imagined than that in which rests this wide, low house, gleaming white against its background of green hills and its setting of the sapphire sea.
Directly in back of it are the long vineyards of the estate and, very near, Mt. Serrat raises its sheer peak against a sky that competes with the Mediterranean for depth and brightness of color. The rambling verandahs overlook natural gardens. All is life, animation and color, and the atmosphere breathes peace and abundance.
Over this there presides a charming, small, snowy-haired lady who is the mother of Pablo Casals, and two other sons. She dominates all about her by her gentleness and goodness. Hers are the rare qualities, typical of a Spanish lady; devotion, loyalty, simplicity, kindness, courage and the love of her home. It is to this little lady that Mr. Casals eagerly returns each year and to the home in which he was born.
Here each summer he brings a few of his best friends and here the genius of the country congregates to discuss the world and their art. Zuloaga and Sorolla, the famous painters, and Guimera, crowned poet of Cataluna, the renowned dramatist, are some of his most frequent visitors; for these figures, unique in their greatness, have much in common.
Bach at Six A. M.
But though this is vacation time in the sunny south, there is no sluggishness in the ménage of Casals. At six in the morning we are aroused by the rolling tones of a Bach prelude. Mr. Casals is playing on the piano, he is already communing with his master, Bach, whom he interprets incomparably. Upon the piano Mr. Casals plays so remarkably that, had he chosen that instead of the ‘cello as his instrument of expression, he would have ranked among the masters of his day. His playing has that same indescribable quality which has caused persons to marvel at his ‘cello.
After all are aroused, comes a dip in the sea, smooth and shining as crystal in the early sun. Sometimes dripping and aglow, we hail a fishing bark, and curled up in its shell, sail over infinite spaces of blue until breakfast time. This meal, of ripe figs and pomegranates, picked from trees near the house, wild honey gathered in the nearby woods, and coffee in the Moorish style of Almanzor—the Caliph of Cordovan fame—is served upon the warm sands amidst a satisfied silence and the rustle of the morning news sheets. But then someone needs comment upon an item of political or social interest and silence gives place to lively discussion. The day has begun in earnest and talk accompanies a walk on the beach or in the fragrant vineyards.
Soon, however, all return to the house for music. There are trios, quartets, sonatas, solos—the futurists and the contrapuntists all have their turns, and there is playing on many instruments. All alike has its chance through the long summer days, and comes in for criticism and comment, mayhap even such praise as will bring it many a repetition.
A Keen Sportsman
Then comes luncheon and after it coffee again is served on the porch, where a game of chess takes place. After this Mr. Casals, who is a keen sportsman, plays several sets of tennis. He was a pupil of Wilding, the tennis champion of the world, who was recently killed in Gallipoli. A crowd of people, friends and villagers, gather to watch the spirited tennis. It frequently becomes a miniature tournament, the side lines betting on the games and cheering the players.
At the end of this strenuous afternoon the time until dinner, which does not come until nine o’clock, is passed in music, reading and talking. Shakespeare, Moliere, Cervantes, and many of the other classics are read aloud, as well as works on music and stories in lighter and humorous vein. One of the most important topics of discussion is the bullfight. Mr. Casals is much interested in this subject, for the Spaniards have been brought up to regard bull-fighting as a pleasure and are as accustomed to it as we are to football. To them there appears none of the barbarity which we see in it. The bull-fight in Spain is an intensely important thing—it is the chief form of recreation, and the principal bullfighters are such important persons that even the King receives them. Their followings form veritable political factions. The question of whose art is greater, who is more graceful, skillful, daring, resourceful, etc., is one which is never settled. It is forever Gallito or Belmonte, over and over. This question holds for Mr. Casals, too, a great fascination.
After dinner, in the late twilight, the party sits on the verandah watching the breathless beauty of the southern night close in like a great wall of velvet blackness until, one by one, the brilliant stars and the pale glowing moon bring back a soft light to the evening. In the distance there is the mellow chime of bells. Sometimes a chorus of villagers comes singing to Mr. Casals his own “Sardanas.” The “Sardanas” are native dances, accompanied by choral singing, and are a characteristic music of the Spanish people. Sometimes we stroll to the Casino and play billiards with the fishermen from the village, for Casals loves to mingle with his own people and, in spite of the great veneration they have for him, they treat him as one of themselves.
It is in this delightful manner that the summer passes all too quickly—recreation and work (if you can call it that) so blended that one scarcely realizes the passing of the days. I cannot but feel what a great privilege it is to be near such a personality as that of Mr. Casals—one whose life is as fine and strong as his work and who exerts so great an influence for the best on all those about him. His work is an inspiration to all musicians—devoted, as he is, to the highest standards of art—and his life should be an inspiration to all men.


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