Pablo Casals in the Pyrénées (Dennis Aubrey)


Prades has almost always been part of my consciousness. My parents had a well-worn record album of Pablo Casals performing at the Pablo Casals Festival of Music. In 1950, Casals created the festival and he played there with some of the finest classical instrumentalists of the time. I knew this because I read the record jacket hundreds of times.

So when we finally went to Prades in 2009, I was in great anticipation of the visit. The site did not disappoint, set as it is in the Pyrénées. We stayed in a a lovely chambres d’hôtes on the outskirts of the small town, the Castel Rose. Elegant and welcoming, it was a perfect base of operations for our four days in the area.

Castel Rose breakfast room

Castel Rose breakfast room

From our room window we could look out at the famous Mont Canigou, home to the ancient Benedictine monastery hidden on its slopes.

View of Mont Canigou from the Castel Rose  (Photo by Dennis Aubrey)

View of Mont Canigou from the Castel Rose (Photo by Dennis Aubrey)

The church itself is not particularly exciting, having been rebuilt in the 17th century on its Romanesque foundation. On the western front are some arcades rescued from Saint Michel de Cuxa, but the real glories of the church are its furnishings.

Nave,  Église Saint Pierre, Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Nave, Église Saint Pierre, Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

The famous retable was created by the Catalan sculptor Joseph Sunyer. The retable is the largest Baroque altarpiece in France and took almost two years to complete. The completed triptych was finished in 1699. A monumental 12′ tall Saint Peter dominates the central section, clothed in his pontifical vestments and wearing a tiara. The Virgin is enthroned above him, the intermediary between heaven and earth.

 Retable, Église Saint Pierre, Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Retable, Église Saint Pierre, Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Sunyer also created the magnificent retable in the small Eglise Saint Martin d’Odeillo in Odeillo-Font Romeu, home to two magnificent vierges romanes.

Retable detail, Église Saint Pierre, Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales)  Photo by PJ McKey

Retable detail, Église Saint Pierre, Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales) Photo by PJ McKey

There is also a modern black madonna in one of the twelve side chapels of the nave. each with its own elaborate retable. Even though she is not a medieval creation, to me she harkens back to the ancient statues at Dorres and other churches in the region.

Black Madonna,  Église Saint Pierre, Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Black Madonna, Église Saint Pierre, Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

PJ also captured a photo of another fine modern addition, the crucifixion sculpture.

Crucifix, Église Saint Pierre, Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales)  Photo by PJ McKey

Crucifix, Église Saint Pierre, Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales) Photo by PJ McKey

And while Prades no longer has a Romanesque church, we can take comfort by knowing that it is surrounded by some of the most pure and beautiful examples of that culture. We return to Prades this spring and will contemplate the slopes of Canigou from the Castel Rose. We shall enjoy a meal on the Place de la Republique, drink our red wine from the porrón and toast Pablo Casals.

Location: 42.618234° 2.423730°

italy-flag smallItalian Translation by Carlo Balma Mion

12 responses to “Pablo Casals in the Pyrénées (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. Ah, Dennis – how well I remember that LP! It introduced me to the first the Brandenburg Concertos of Bach and to the wonderful playing of Lucien Thevet, Marcel Tabuteau, Maurice Allard, Paul Tortelier, and so many others. Apparently, Maurice Andre wasn’t on the scene yet, because Casals had to resort to using a soprano saxophone instead of a trumpet in the second concerto! Eerie sound!
    Also, Casals’ recording of the Bach Cello Suites are among the finest ever!

    • John Paul, always remembered that album and how it conjured up the town of Prades to me. I should have known that it was an influence on you, as well. Thanks for sharing the memory.

  2. Beautiful, Dennis &PJ.
    The Bach was magnificent. What a thrill it must have been to hear it live. Thank you.

      • Hi Dennis,
        Sorry, I didn’t see your reply. Great about your new trip! We want to hear all about it. Sue and I are going to the Po Valley next month for about 4 weeks.
        Bob

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