A TRIBUTE TO ROBERT CASADESUS (1899 – 1972)
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Robert Casadesus, French pianist and composer, was born in Paris on April 7, 1899, and lived the life of a great artist until his untimely death on September 19, 1972. Casadesus did not have the international celebrity of Horowitz and Rubinstein but, as a pianist-composer, he expressed elegance and classicism through clarity and brilliance at the keyboard. This dissertation performance project pays tribute to a great virtuoso of the 20th century through selected piano works that shaped his artistic life. The life of Robert Casadesus echoed his style as a pianist. From his upbringing in a prestigious musical family to finishing his studies at the renowned, Paris Conservatoire, Casadesus certainly enjoyed a rich musical background and training. In 1921, Casadesus married Gabrielle L'Hôte whom he met in the class of Diémer at the Paris Conservatoire. This marriage began a lifelong musical journey that formed one of the most successful duo-piano partnerships of all time. Together, they made exemplary duo-piano recordings. A year later, Casadesus met Maurice Ravel and earned the composer’s praise for his performance of “Le Gibet” from Gaspard de la nuit. Ravel and Casadesus performed and toured together, keeping a strong relationship built on great respect. Casadesus enthusiastically embraced the repertoire of this French composer and, in 1924, became the first pianist to give an all-Ravel program with the composer in attendance. Casadesus excelled in performing the music of Ravel, Scarlatti, Rameau, Couperin, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, and Debussy. His playing was distinguished by extraordinary control, elegant simplicity, sparkling technique, objective clarity and absolute fidelity to the composer’s text. Besides being a renowned concert pianist, Casadesus was an artistic pedagogue who could verbalize the sound with a single gesture. As a recording artist, his recordings of Debussy, Ravel, Mozart concertos, and violin-piano duos with Zino Francescatti, still remain legendary. As a prolific composer, he explored rhythm, virtuosity, dissonant harmonies and contrapuntal textures in a neo-classical style. The selected repertoire for my recitals consists entirely of major works, significant to Casadesus’ artistic career. Some works remain as milestones in his life and almost all the works have been either frequently performed or recorded by Casadesus.