Musical pieces performed by Paolo Casals for the International Cello Day

International Cello Day or Cellist Day, an unofficial holiday for cello payers and music amateurs, is marked annually on December, 29. The date chosen for this musical holiday is the birthday of the prominent Catalonian cellist, conductor, composer, musician and public figure Pablo Casals (Pablo Casals, 1876-1973). The personality of this musician has a special significance for the history of cello art.

His view on the performance artistic side and expressive possibilities of the cello allowed not only performers but also listeners to discover many new and challenging things: the beauty of the cello sound, the possibilities of the hands free movement, the subtleties of conveying moods and emotions in a piece of music, virtuoso mastery of cello technique.

Selection of musical pieces performed by Paolo Casals for the International Cello Day is posted in the museum Phonoteque.

On the cover: Automaton "Cellist". Henry Phalibois. France, Paris. Circa 1875.

The cello is a stringed instrument, an indispensable member of the symphony orchestra and string ensemble. The sound of the cello is lush, plumy and tense, prickling and thick, rebellious and masculine, filled with romantic nobility and beauty, slightly squeezed in the flute register. The instrument fat sound is often compared to the human voice. The cello is also associated with the singing timbre colour of a person with deep voice. This is the secret of the peculiar expressiveness of musical pieces performed with cello accompaniment. The cello is equally considered an ensemble, orchestral and solo instrument. A huge repertoire exists for the cello: sonatas, concertos and pieces. The cello is also used as an accompaniment instrument.
The cello is widely used when sadness, despair or deep lyricism needs to be expressed in music, and in this instrument is unrivalled.

In the 17th-19th centuries, the efforts of outstanding musical masters of the Italian schools (Niccolò Amati, Giuseppe Guarneri, and Antonio Stradivari) created the classical model of the cello. At the end of the 17th century, the first solo works for cello appeared -- sonatas and ricercaras1) by Giovanni Gabrieli. During this period, the cello began to be used as a concert instrument, finally replacing the Viola gamba2) due to its brighter, fuller sound and improving performance technique. The middle of the 18th century was the peak of popularity for the string-and-musk instrument. The cello joined symphonic and chamber ensembles. Johannes Brahms and Antonin Dvořák wrote separate concertos for it.

In the 16th-17th centuries, there were two ways of playing the cello. The musician could play sitting down, holding the instrument with his feet, or standing up, placing the cello on a special bench. At the beginning of the 18th century, when playing, the cello began to be placed between the knees, holding it with the calves. In the 19th century, the endpin was invented, which made it possible to rest the cello on the floor.

The true flowering of cello art came in the 20th century thanks to the work of Pablo Casals. He discovered the rich sound possibilities of the cello, took a new approach to the pieces that had been created by composers of the past, reviving them in a new interpretation; he developed new methods of cello fingering and bowing technique. An extensive literature has been written for this instrument. The concert repertoire is adorned with solo cello suites by Johann Sebastian Bach, sonatas for cello and piano by L. Beethoven, F. Schubert, F. Chopin, I. Brahms, E. Grieg, C. Debussy, S. Rachmaninoff and D. Shostakovich. The broad and rapid development of cello art in the 20th century was facilitated by numerous competitions for performers playing this instrument. There were virtuoso cellists who regularly gave recitals. The whole world listens to recordings by Mstislav Rostropovich and Gregor Piatigorsky. The cello is not limited to classical music. It is also actively used in modern genres such as jazz, rock, electronic music and many others.

"One should sing as the cello sings" - in these words of the great Russian singer F. Chaliapin lies perhaps the most profound characterisation of the cello, an instrument that has become one of the most important in the symphony orchestra and chamber music and which has found the widest application in solo concert practice.


1) A ricercar is a type of late Renaissance and mostly early Baroque instrumental composition. The term ricercar derives from the Italian verb ricercare, which means "to search out; to seek"; many ricercars serve a preludial function to "search out" the key or mode of a following piece.

2) Viola da gamba, or informally gamba, is any one of a family of bowed, fretted, and stringed instruments with hollow wooden bodies and pegboxes where the tension on the strings can be increased or decreased to adjust the pitch of each of the strings.