Gaspar Cassadó

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GASPAR CASSADÓ plays Beethoven, Bach, Cassadó, Granados, Mozart, Schumann and Brahms

‘Wartime German Radio Recordings’

1. BEETHOVEN: 7 Variations on a theme from the Magic Flute in E-flat Major, WoO 46 [09:19]
Recorded · 12 November 1940 · Berlin · Masurenalle · Haus des Rundfunks · Saal 2 · Reichssender Berlin · Radio Studio Recording
Gaspar Cassadó · cello
Willy Hammer · piano

2. BACH: Adagio in C Major, BWV.564 (arr. Siloti) [03:16]
3. CASSADO: Danse du Diable vert [03:10]

Recorded · 8 November 1940 · Berlin · Masurenalle · Haus des Rundfunks · Saal 2 · Reichssender Berlin · Radio Studio Recording
Gaspar Cassadó · cello
Willy Hammer · piano

4. GRANADOS: Andaluza (arr. Cassadó) [03:07]
5. MOZART: Deh, vieni alla finestra, K.527 (arr. Cassadó) [02:40]
6. SCHUMANN: Abendlied, Op. 85, No.12 (arr. Casals) [03:20]

Recorded · 19 December 1940 · Berlin · Masurenalle · Haus des Rundfunks · Saal 2 · Reichssender Berlin · Radio Studio Recording
Gaspar Cassadó · cello
Willy Hammer · piano

7-10. BRAHMS: Piano Trio in C Major, Op.87 [31:18]
11-12. MOZART: II. Andante con variazioni and III. Allegretto, Piano Trio in G Major, K.564 [12:40]

Recorded: 05 April 1944 in Hamburg, Sendesaal, Reichssender Hamburg (Radio Studio Recording)
Gaspar Cassadó · cello
Adrian Aeschbacher · piano
Max Strub · violin

Additional Information

Article number: MC 3001
Release date: 02 May 2014
UPC barcode: 0791154050439
Total time: 68:54

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Valentin Kubina and Boris Lipnitzki
With special thanks to Ulrich Karla
From the Original Masters · © 2014 Meloclassic

Gaspar Cassadó was born in Barcelona on September 30, 1897, into a musical family. As a boy, Cassadó was brought up in an intensely musical environment. He received his first musical training from his father Joaquin, who was a distinguished organist as well as composer, conductor and director of a music school, and ran a piano store with his wife, Agustina Moreu. Cassadó entered his father’s school at the age of five and soon became a member of the children’s choir. He showed a very strong interest in the cello, and, having received as a present a pint sized instrument when he began cello studies with Dionisio March, and his talent was quickly apparent. He was able to give his first cello recital only two years later. The Barcelona authorities decided to award him a scholarship for study abroad with some famous cellists. He went to Paris where he pursued his studies at age ten. The promise that the young Cassadó showed and the progress he made were such that he became the favorite pupil of Pablo Casals. When first approached, Casals was reluctant to accept Cassadó as a student. Once he heard young Gaspar play, however, he immediately agreed to take him on, recognizing his tremendous talent. Cassadó quickly became Casals’ devoted disciple, and the bond between the two was very strong. Cassadó would later refer to Casals as his “spiritual father.”

For the 11 year-old Cassadó, Casals’ way of making music was a revelation. In an interview many years later, Cassadó described his early impressions of his teacher: “Casals’ playing produced an indelible impression from the musical point of view. The study of each new piece meant methodical work aimed at the recreation of the character of the music studied. Just this made him an unsurpassed cellist. I remember when as a pupil I came to a standstill: while studying one of the concertos in Casals’ interpretation at the lessons, it seemed to me that, at last, I discovered the secret of his playing; but some time later I attended a concert of the Maestro-he performed the same concerto but not in the same way. Once, being in Berlin (1925), I went to a concert to hear Casals. The programme included the Bach Fifth Suite. This unsurpassed interpretation had had such a great impact on me that I rushed to him to congratulate [sic] and say: ‘Maestro, the time has come when you must publish this Suite in your edition.’ ‘Do you really think,’ he said with sorrow, ‘that if I could I wouldn’t have done it long ago?’ At that time I could not grasp the essence of his reply. But now when I became much older I understand my tutor well. Many essential points of the interpretation can’t be fixed once and for ever, though a player must imagine them in his mind. But in the process of a performer’s interpretation there appears a new factor: inspiration, enthusiasm borne of a moment. It is possible to assert that a great performer is an improvisor at the same time. He never performs the same composition twice in the same way.”

While in Paris, Cassado performed many concerts with his father and brother as the Cassado Trio. He was surrounded by some of the leading musical figures of the early 20th century, including Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Erik Satie. Cassadó began studying composition with Maurice Ravel and with Manuel de Falla. He also befriended the composers Alfredo Casella, Joaquin Turina, and Isaac Albéniz. When the First World War broke out in 1914, the family returned to Barcelona, where his father died, most likely from influenza. Gaspar began to appear on concerts in the Palau de la Música Catalana. With the end of the war making travel possible again, he began performing in Paris and Italy, his career growing on an international scale with many European and South American tours. In the years that followed, his reputation grew to the point where he became recognizes as one of the great masters of the cello in that time.

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He also began composing, and though he modestly referred to his own composing as a hobby, it was rare that he would give a recital without including one of his own works on the program. He also made numerous legitimate transcriptions for cello and piano. Most of these are of well-known works by composers like Bach, Chopin and Debussy, and there is therefore no question of their authenticity. The most popular transcription Cassadó made was of the Intermezzo from the opera Goyescas, by Enrique Granados, still a popular encore. In 1923, Cassado made his home in Florence, Italy, but continued touring internationally, premiering his own works with orchestra, and making recordings. On a trip to Berlin in 1923, Cassado met Giulietta von Mendelssohn-Gordigiani, an accomplished pianist. She was a widow by this time and a relationship ensued in which they performed together in many recitals until the 1940s. On 3 April 1927 he performed the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No.1 with the Concertgebouworkest under Willem Mengelberg at Concertgebouw Amsterdam. He made his North American debut in December 10, 1936 playing Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D Major with the New York Philharmonic under Sir John Barbirolli at Carnegie Hall.

By 1934, the Nazi government had established its own concert department, and all artists who wished to perform publicly in Germany needed to be registered with it and pay it commissions. This government management agency enabled the Nazis to allow performances only by artists whom they considered racially and politically acceptable. The head of the Reich’s concert division was one Rudolph Vedder, who would later help launch the career of Herbert von Karajan. Cassadó made an unsuccessful effort to wriggle out of Vedder’s grasp. Cassadó later admitted to having given one concert in Germany during the Second World War. However, there are evidences that he had given more concerts and all released recordings on this CD were done in Germany for the German Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft between 1940 and 1944. During the war years, Cassadó played in many of the Nazi-occupied territories in Europe. In 1941 he appeared for the Nazi organization “Kraft durch Freude”, the National Socialist Organization “Strength through Joy” in Vienna with the Vienna Symphony under Hans Weisbach. In 1942 he played the Schumann Cello Concerto with the Concertgebouworkest under Eugen Jochum in occupied Amsterdam. A recital in 1943 for a Nazi organization in Vienna with Karl Hammer, at the piano.

He later attempted to distance himself from the Reich shortly after the Allied liberation of Florence in August 1944, the city university organized a concert to celebrate the end of the Nazi occupation, and Cassadó was the star attraction. At the concert, which took place on October 31, 1944, the rector of the university described the occasion as a “triumph of art and a tribute to liberty”. Cassadó taught at Siena’s Accademia Musica Chigiana from 1946 to 1952, and again from 1955 until 1962, when he shared the cello teaching duties with André Navarra. In 1949, Cassadó was accused of having collaborated with the Axis powers during the Second World War. Leading the charges was his mentor, Pablo Casals. Their friendship and Cassadó’s career were damaged. Yehudi Menuhin, who knew Cassadó well and played with him, described Cassadó as “a political innocent.”Cassadó publicly professed to have no interest in such matters anyway. This attitude helps to explain his actions (or lack thereof) during the wars, and would also cost him dearly after their conclusion. It also suggests that Casals, who would turn so forcibly against Cassadó in 1949, might have harbored resentment against him as early as 1939, when Casals made his decision to abandon his own career for the cause he believed in, and his protégé did not follow. Casals had been the leading figure in Cassadó’s development as a cellist and musician; that Cassadó broke from his guidance at such a decisive moment must have angered Casals.

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Casals expected a great deal from those around him; that his prize student chose not to join him in his cause would cause a rift between them that would take several years to repair. After his reconciliation with Casals in 1955, Casals made at least one other trip to Siena at Cassadó’s request, in 1959, when Cassadó married Japanese pianist Chieko Hara, with whom he would play most of his recitals thereafter. He played with all the famous orchestras and conductors such as Furtwängler, Mengelberg, Weingartner, Beecham, Monteux, Busch, Knappertsbusch, Klemperer, Böhm, Keilberth, Krauss, Argenta, Maazel, and many others. Cassadó first visited the Soviet Union in 1962 performing in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Riga. During this trip, he served on the jury of the Tchaikovsky Competition and made several recordings with Chieko Hara. Cassadó returned to judge the 1966 Tchaikovsky Competition as well. While in Moscow, he made plans to celebrate his 70th birthday in Kiev, performing the Brahms Double Concerto with David Oistrakh, with Mstislav Rostropovich conducting. Unfortunately, he did not live to enjoy the festivities. In the fall of 1966, Florence suffered terrible flooding, and Cassadó toured the area giving concerts in an effort to raise money for the city’s recovery. His health began to suffer, and his doctors advised him to relax for a few months. He ignored them, and continued to perform throughout Europe.

Cassadó died of a heart attack on December 24, 1966 at his house in Florence.

© Michael Waiblinger 2014

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