Tomoko recalls how Pablo Casals was performing at the age of 96. At that time, in 1972, one of Tomoko’s college friends was inspired by Casals, and flew to Arizona State University where he was playing a benefit concert to raise money for an International Cello Library. Tomoko went along with her friend, and met Casals at the airport. They spent a meal with him and his young wife, who was the same age at Tomoko.
Casals’ musical education started at home in Catalonia, Spain; his parish organist father taught him piano, organ, violin and composition. After Casals saw a local musician play a cell-strung broom handle, Casals’ father built a crude cell for Pablo. At age 12, Casals enrolled in Barcelona’s municipal school of music, and he gave his first cello recital two years later. By his twenties, Casals was touring internationally. Before the age of 30 he had played at the White House and in Carnegie Hall. Over 50 years later, he again played in the White House – for President Kennedy. Casals also composed music, conducted orchestras, and gave master classes.
Tomoko was indeed fortunate to hear and meet Pablo Casals as he died the year after. However, he left an impressive legacy with his compositions (including “Hymn of the United Nations”), recordings, and the Casals Festival, which he founded in Puerto Rico. The Pablo Casals Museum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, showcases many of his original documents. His rich life is echoed in Tomoko’s lifelong love of music.