Presumably Casals, like the rest of us, knew what name he wanted to be known by. The front of this record-box has, writ large, his signature `Pau Casals', and then the printed material refers to him throughout as `Pablo'. Pau is the Catalan version of the name, and his use of it was a statement of his opposition to Franco's Spain. Most of my records of Rubinstein, who signed himself `Arthur', give his name as Artur. Precisely what psychological and sociological characteristics this exhibits, and on the part of whom, I'm not sure.
These two Mozart concerto performances date from June and July respectively in 1951, with Casals conducting the Perpignan Festival orchestra. The recorded quality is only adequate and does not allow a 5-star rating, but music-lovers eager to take advantage of the current spate of reissues from a generation or two ago are not going to be much bothered by that. The soloist in the awesome D minor concerto is Yvonne Lefebure, and I learn from the accompanying leaflet that this fine performance is being released here for the very first time, the reason apparently being that it defeated the intellectual resources of Columbia to find a filler for it in the LP format. It is a very fine performance indeed, easily of the class of the accounts of the work that I have from Richter, Katchen and Michelangeli, although as you might expect less well recorded. I find the first movement cadenza by Fred Goldbeck extremely disconcerting (what was wrong with Beethoven's?), but in all essential respects this is a notable rendition of that most sinister of Mozart's instrumental compositions. Any performer of this concerto has to face up to the ultimately hopeless comparison with Serkin. He recorded it twice that I know of before his final swansong series with Abbado and the LSO. In his version with Ormandy he takes a very involved and dramatic approach to the first movement. Lefebure's approach is nearer to the way Serkin later went about the work with Szell - the drama understated and the sense of menace less overt. This is the way I like it best, and if Lefebure isn't quite Serkin, well, who is? It is a performance I shall be playing repeatedly for its own sake. Where I miss Serkin most is in the finale, but it would not necessarily have been wise for anyone else to try doing it that way.
In the big K482 in E flat, the biggest of all Mozart's concertos, we have Serkin himself. The first movement is oddly uncharacteristic from him. It has an almost improvisatory feel to it, and none the worse for that. He even supplies his own cadenzas. Among the treasures of my collection is another performance, very famous indeed in its day, from Annie Fischer, distinguished in one of many ways by a really superlative partnership from Sawallisch and the Philharmonia. It represents some kind of ultimate in a certain idiom of Mozart-playing - refined, exquisite and aristocratic. It does not in any sense at all reduce the stature of the piece, and I would not be willing to say that Serkin or anyone else ever did it better to my way of thinking. Right at the end of the slow movement Serkin and Casals produce something quite out of the ordinary, the sort of revelation that only the very greatest are capable of. Otherwise it's very much a question of taste and temperament. I greatly like the slowish speed that Serkin and Casals take in the last movement, but I'm still in love with Fischer. I sense that words are rather failing me, but after all this is Mozart.