Local volunteers revive cello competition


The 1st Gaspar Cassado International Violoncello Competition in Hachioji begins Nov. 23, relaunching a contest that first began in Florence, Italy in 1969.

The competition was set up to commemorate the life of one of the 20th century’s greatest cellists, Gaspar Cassado (1897-1966). Born in Spain, Cassado was a soloist and composer — best-known for “Requiebros,” which he dedicated to his cello teacher, the famed Pablo Casals.

Inaugurated by his late widow, pianist Chieko Hara, in cooperation with the City of Florence, where Cassado lived for more than 30 years, the competition has unearthed many talented cellists, such as Mischa Maisky.

Hara, who died in 2001, spent the last years of her life in Tokyo after returning from Florence. To carry out her final wishes, volunteers from Hachioji City have been preparing to bring back the competition, 16 years after it was last held in Florence. The revived contest will pit 45 candidates from 19 countries.

The organizers are also holding various related events, including chapel concerts given by some of the judges, concerts at schools in Hachioji and performances on the cello by children.

The competition takes place at Hachioji City Art and Cultural Hall (also known as Icho Hall). The first stage runs Nov. 23-25, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; the second stage, Nov. 26-28, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Admission to the first and second stages is free.

The final stage takes place Dec. 2, 3 p.m. (admission 3,000 yen). The award ceremony and gala concert take place Dec. 3, 2 p.m. (2,000 yen). For tickets, call (042) 621-3005. The venue is a short bus ride from the North Exit of Hachioji Station on the JR Chuo Line. For more information, visit www. cassado-cello.jp