In August 1973, world-famous cellist Pablo Casals accepted an invitation from prime minister Golda Meir to guest-conduct a youth orchestra in Jerusalem.
Though Casals was then nearing 97, he agreed to fly to Israel along with his wife, Marta, and violinists Isaac Stern and Alexander Schneider.
It was the last time Casals took his cello outside of the United States; he passed away two months later. That December, a child was born on Kibbutz Yizre’el who would later be entrusted with Casals’ precious musical instrument and play it in Israel and across the globe.
This summer, Peabody Conservatory Prof. Amit Peled is taking Casals’ vintage 1733 Matteo Goffriller cello on a two-week US recital tour with his wife and three children, ages 11, nine and six. Before that, he’ll teach a master class at a Western Galilee kibbutz.
The story of how the grandson of an Israeli turkey farmer grew up to be one of the world’s foremost cellists – and how Marta Casals chose him to make music once again on her husband’s cello – is marked by the hand of destiny, says Peled.
Though his mother played piano and sang, and his farmer grandfather, Moshe Bernstein, enjoyed playing the violin he received by trading cigarette rations during his World War II service with the Jewish Brigade in Italy, Peled wasn’t brought up to be a professional musician.