An extraordinary conductor
Casals said that he had felt a calling to be a conductor very early on in his life. When he sang in the parish choir of his hometown, El Vendrell, he was filled with an urge to tell the singers what they had to do! It was in 1908, when he was 31 years old, that he made his real debut as a conductor with the Lamoureux Orchestra in Paris. The first work he conducted was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. After this, he regularly conducted as a guest conductor around the world, and in 1920 he founded the Orchestra Pau Casals in Barcelona, leading it to the highest international standard.
Conducting gave Casals access to a vast repertoire, one much larger than for the cello, and when he conducted, he was far less troubled by stage fright than when he was playing. Unlike the dictatorial habits of many conductors of that era, Casals did not impose his concepts in a highhanded manner. On the contrary, he sought to communicate his ideas (through singing and gestures rather than long speeches) and to share them with the musicians. After the Second World War, Casals conducted at the Prades Festival and, above all, in Marlboro and Puerto Rico. Recordings and films show that his genius as a conductor was no less than his genius as a cellist.