The 38th Annual Pablo Casals Festival

Narrator: Elliott Forrest.

Narrator: Elliott Forrest.

Legendary Catalan cellist, conductor and humanitarian Pablo Casals moved to Puerto Rico (his mother’s homeland) and began a music festival there in 1957, leading musical participants from the world over clamoring to perform under his benign leadership. Twenty years after his death, the Casals Festival continues, with the offerings of this year’s event sampled, ever so cautiously, in this first-time North American telecast.

Director Bob Bowker and his crew gather bits and pieces from several concerts for their collage: three fragments from Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” performed under David Shallon’s rather stiff leadership on a bad horn night; one movement from Schubert’s “Arpeggione” sonata, soberly delivered by Lithuanian cellist David Geringas; all of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, by Andre Watts and the visiting Lausanne Chamber Orchestra; and a frustrating truncation of Verdi’s eloquent Requiem, interpreted by assembled vocal forces under Poland’s progressive composer/conductor Krzysztof Penderecki.

Most of the camerawork is the standard symphonic stuff: closeups of fingers plucking strings and oboists’ puffed-up cheeks. In the Verdi, however, the scene turns artsy, as choristers intone their music while on a walking tour through Puerto Rican churches and cemeteries.

Despite the thrilled-with-it-all tone of narrator Elliott Forrest, the level of performance seldom honors the spirit of the festival’s noble founder. Watching Watts in his facial agonies, one might expect a comparable emotional outlay in his concerto performance; no such luck.

By far the most rewarding moments come with the interspersed black-and-white footage of Casals himself, playing Bach on his cello; conducting the same Beethoven concerto Watts performs here, but with the great Rudolph Serkin at the piano; exhorting students to forget about technique and concentrate on feeling.

Not much of that message comes through these days, alas, if this latter-day sampling is to be believed.

The 38th Annual Pablo Casals Festival

(Thurs. (5), 6-8 p.m., A&E)

Production: Filmed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, by Weller/Grossman Prods. Executive producers, Gary Grossman, Robb Weller; producer, Gary Milkis; director, Bob Bowker; music producer, Ezra Kliger; feature producer, Ruben Norte.

Crew: Editor, John Showalter; lighting, Carl Gibson; sound, David Greene; camera, Parker Bartlett, Don Davis, Tom Harvey, Jose Flores, Carlos Morales, Jorge Jimenez.

Cast: With: David Shallon, Jesus Lopez-Cobos, Krzysztof Penderecki, conductors; David Geringas, cellist; Andre Watts, pianist; Sharon Sweet, Florence Quivar, Richard Leech, Alastair Miles, vocal soloists; Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, Puerto Rico Symphony and Chorus.

More TV

  • Exclusive - All AroundMandatory Credit: Photo

    Nicole Maines on ScarJo Casting Controversy: Cis Actors Playing Trans Characters Furthers Harmful Stereotypes

    Narrator: Elliott Forrest. Legendary Catalan cellist, conductor and humanitarian Pablo Casals moved to Puerto Rico (his mother’s homeland) and began a music festival there in 1957, leading musical participants from the world over clamoring to perform under his benign leadership. Twenty years after his death, the Casals Festival continues, with the offerings of this year’s […]

  • Nicole MainesVariety Studio Comic-Con, Day 3,

    WB SDCC Roundup: Nicole Maines Cast as First Transgender Superhero on 'Supergirl', 'Riverdale' Nabs Penelope Ann Miller

    Narrator: Elliott Forrest. Legendary Catalan cellist, conductor and humanitarian Pablo Casals moved to Puerto Rico (his mother’s homeland) and began a music festival there in 1957, leading musical participants from the world over clamoring to perform under his benign leadership. Twenty years after his death, the Casals Festival continues, with the offerings of this year’s […]

  • No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No

    Elmarie Wendel, '3rd Rock From the Sun' Actress, Dies at 89

    Narrator: Elliott Forrest. Legendary Catalan cellist, conductor and humanitarian Pablo Casals moved to Puerto Rico (his mother’s homeland) and began a music festival there in 1957, leading musical participants from the world over clamoring to perform under his benign leadership. Twenty years after his death, the Casals Festival continues, with the offerings of this year’s […]

  • Gabrielle Carteris

    SAG-AFTRA Board Approves Deals on Non-Primetime TV, Telemundo

    Narrator: Elliott Forrest. Legendary Catalan cellist, conductor and humanitarian Pablo Casals moved to Puerto Rico (his mother’s homeland) and began a music festival there in 1957, leading musical participants from the world over clamoring to perform under his benign leadership. Twenty years after his death, the Casals Festival continues, with the offerings of this year’s […]

  • Issa Rae, Natasha Rothwell and Yvonne

    'Insecure' Season 3 to Introduce New 'Timely' Show Within The Show

    Narrator: Elliott Forrest. Legendary Catalan cellist, conductor and humanitarian Pablo Casals moved to Puerto Rico (his mother’s homeland) and began a music festival there in 1957, leading musical participants from the world over clamoring to perform under his benign leadership. Twenty years after his death, the Casals Festival continues, with the offerings of this year’s […]

  • Nicole MainesVariety Studio Comic-Con, Day 3,

    Nicole Maines on Being TV's First Trans Superhero: 'I'm Nervous Because I Want to Do It Right'

    Narrator: Elliott Forrest. Legendary Catalan cellist, conductor and humanitarian Pablo Casals moved to Puerto Rico (his mother’s homeland) and began a music festival there in 1957, leading musical participants from the world over clamoring to perform under his benign leadership. Twenty years after his death, the Casals Festival continues, with the offerings of this year’s […]

  • Man in the High Castle

    Amazon Renews 'The Man in the High Castle' for Season 4

    Narrator: Elliott Forrest. Legendary Catalan cellist, conductor and humanitarian Pablo Casals moved to Puerto Rico (his mother’s homeland) and began a music festival there in 1957, leading musical participants from the world over clamoring to perform under his benign leadership. Twenty years after his death, the Casals Festival continues, with the offerings of this year’s […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content