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What It Means To Play Pablo Casals' Cello

Amit Peled is preparing to re-create a century-old cello recital by Pablo Casals, using the master's own instrument. Here, he shows if off in NPR's Washington, D.C., studios.
Amit Peled is preparing to re-create a century-old cello recital by Pablo Casals, using the master's own instrument. Here, he shows if off in NPR's Washington, D.C., studios.

When Amit Peled was 10, his parents gave him a gift: a cassette of music by cello master Pablo Casals. Peled had no classical background; his parents were not musicians. He says his own budding interest in the cello was a scam, a way of getting close to a girl in his town who happened to play the instrument. And yet, every night, he would fall asleep with the tape playing from a boombox beside his bed. The music made an impression.

"I would call him the grandfather of classical music of the 20th century — not just for cellists," Peled says. "He really shaped what we know today of how to make a phrase, and was a bridge from the old times, from romantic music, to our day. He played the Brahms Sonata for Brahms. I mean, that link is something that you can't stop thinking about."

Peled's obsession became devotion; today he's an acclaimed cellist himself. Now, he's found another way to follow in his idol's footsteps.

On Thursday, Feb. 12, Peled will appear at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, where Casals gave a recital 100 years ago this week, to perform the exact same program in a live webcast. More than that, he'll do it with the same instrument: Casals' 1733 Goffriller cello, presented to him by the late master's widow.

He joined David Greene in NPR's Washington, D.C., studios to play the instrument and talk about its significance and his own journey to this moment. Hear their conversation at the audio link.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.