San Juan Feature
Casals Festival of Classical Music
Cellist Pablo Casals was one of the 20th century's most influential musicians. Born in Catalonia in 1876, he studied in Spain and Belgium, settled for a time in Paris, then returned to Barcelona. Tours in Europe, the United States, and South America brought him artistic and financial success and opportunities to collaborate with other prominent musicians.
By the advent of the Spanish civil war he was an internationally famous musician, teacher, and conductor. He was also an outspoken supporter of a democratic Spain. Forced into exile by Franco's regime, Casals arrived in Puerto Rico, his mother's birthplace, in 1956. Here the then-81-year-old maestro continued to work and teach. He established the Casals Festival of Classical Music, making the island a home for sublime orchestral and chamber works. During two weeks each June, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra is joined by musicians from all over the world.
In Catalan, Casals's first name is Pau, which appropriately means "peace." He and his friend Albert Schweitzer appealed to the world powers to stop the arms race, and Casals made what many experts say is his greatest work—an oratorio titled The Manger—his personal message of peace. Casals died in Puerto Rico in 1973, but his many legacies live on.
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