A Late Quartet
(STRING QUARTET PLAYING
SLOW, LUSH MELODY)
They’re fucking sixteenths,
Steve, stop milking them.
but do it nicely, and please…
…try not to get caught up in mistakes.
When I was your age,
I met the great Pablo Casals.
I was so intimidated
I could barely speak.
He must have sensed this, because…
…instead of a chat,
he asked me to play.
He requested the prelude
to the Fourth Bach suite.
I focused, took a deep breath,
began, the notes started to flow,
the music’s in the air, and it was
the worst music I ever made.
I played so badly,
I got halfway through and had to stop.
“Bravo,” he said, “Well done.”
Then, he asked me to play the allemande.
“A second chance,” I think to myself.
I never played worse.
“Wonderful. Splendid,” he praised me.
And when I left that night,
I felt terrible about my performance,
but what really bothered me
wasn’t my playing, it was Casals.
Years later, I met him in Paris
and by then I was professional,
we played together.
We became acquaintances,
and one evening, over a glass of wine…
…I confessed to him what I thought
of his horseshit all those years ago.
And he got angry. His demeanor changed,
he grabbed his cello,
“Listen,” he said.
And he played this phrase.
(PLAYS DYNAMIC, DRAMATIC PHRASE)
“Didn’t you play that? Fingering.
It was novel to me. It was good.
And here, didn’t you attack
this passage with an up-bow like this?”
Casals emphasized the good stuff,
the things he enjoyed.
He encouraged. And for the rest,
leave that to the morons,
or whatever it is in Spanish,
who judge by counting faults.
“I can be grateful,
and so must you be,” he said,
“for even one singular phrase,
one transcendent moment.”
– Yeah, wow. Pablo Casals. Champion.
Once more, with feeling please. Feeling!
(SLOW, LUSH MELODY RESUMES)
See also a video of this scene and a post from this date ten years ago.