Pau Casals was a famed cellist, teacher, conductor and composer, well-known for his commitment to his Catalan homeland, which he was forced to leave as a result of the Franco dictatorship.
Pau Casals i Defilló was born in El Vendrell in El Baix Penedès on December 29th 1876 and died in exile in San Juan in Puerto Rico on October 22nd 1973.
His great contribution to the world of music was his interpretative ability as a cellist and his interpretation of the traditional Catalan Christmas lullaby El Cant dels Ocells has become a symbol of peace and freedom around the world.
As a cellist, Pau Casals developed and taught an innovative technique that led to the cello being adopted as a solo instrument and as a conductor he always sought to achieve a similar level of sensitivity and nuance from the whole orchestra.
Fritz Kreisler described him as "the king of the bow" and Eugene Ormandy said of Pau Casals that "He is not only the greatest cellist but possibly the most extraordinary living musician in the world."
On October 24th 1971, aged 95 and just two years before his death, Pau Casals received the United Nations medal of speech and famously too the opportunity to mention Catalonia in his acceptance speech. Franco was still in power in Spain so Pau Casals words had a profound effect.
"This is the greatest honour of my life. Peace has always been my greatest concern. I learnt to love it when I was but a child. When I was a boy, my mother, a wonderful genial woman, she talked to me very early about peace, because at that time there were also many wars. I was born in the middle of a war. So everything that is done by the United Nations goes to my heart and I have followed all the time what the United Nations was doing.
Let me say one thing. I am Catalan. Today a province of Spain. But what has been Catalonia? Catalonia has been the greatest nation in the world. I will tell you why.
Catalonia had the first democratic parliament, much before England. Catalonia had the beginning of the United Nations. All the authorities of Catalonia in the Eleventh Century met in a city of France, at that time Catalonia, to speak about peace. In the eleventh century. Peace in the world and against, against wars, the inhumanity of wars. This was Catalonia. Now I am so happy and so moved to be here."
You can watch the full clip below.