6/28/24 · Institutional

The Pau Casals Chair becomes a UNESCO Chair and joins UNESCO's international cooperation programme

The Chair aims to promote research and knowledge on the artistic dimension of Pau Casals

The Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and Pau Casals Foundation's Pau Casals Chair in Music and the Defence of Peace and Human Rights has signed an agreement with UNESCO to form part of the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme. The aim is to create an international network for the promotion of interuniversity cooperation, academic mobility, and research and knowledge management. Joining this programme opens the door to broadening the scope and outreach of the projects on which the chair focuses. The news was celebrated this Friday morning, 28 June, at the Pau Casals Museum (Sant Salvador, Tarragona) at an event attended by people, institutions and organizations that have provided their support to make this achievement possible.

This agreement is a sign of the project's value and the importance of Pau Casals' musical and humanistic legacy, and a reminder of his great historical link with the UN. Casals was invited four times and commissioned to compose its hymn for peace, the Hymn to the United Nations. Likewise, in 1971, UN Secretary-General U Thant awarded him the United Nations Peace Medal.

The mission of the UNESCO Pau Casals Chair, which was created in 2022, is to foster contemporary research and knowledge, awareness-raising and debate around the musical and humanistic facets of Pau Casals and his extraordinary legacy, as well as the values he advocated throughout his life. It is directed by the historian Joan Fuster-Sobrepere, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the UOC, and co-directed by Alfons Martinell, Emeritus Professor at the University of Girona and former director of its UNESCO Chair on Cultural Policies and Cooperation.

The Chair aims to promote research and knowledge on the artistic dimension of Pau Casals, a leading 20th-century musician with a deep commitment to the dignity of people, human rights, peace and democracy. The people responsible for the Chair hope that its inclusion in the UNESCO programme will foster exchange and links with other university programmes with similar values. This step "represents acknowledgement from a very important international organization, the United Nations," said Fuster-Sobrepere; it "provides access to an environment where we can strengthen international relations that can be very beneficial for all the work we can do in the coming years". In turn, Martintell said: "We intend to create an international research network on the defence and dissemination of these principles, collaborating with other chairs as well as with a number of organizations both in Spain and internationally. […] The idea is to establish cooperation and research networks."

This is the third UOC chair to become a UNESCO Chair, along with the UNESCO Chair in Education and Technology for Social Change and the UNESCO Chair on Food, Culture and Development.


Pau Casals' legacy

The two main areas of action proposed for the Chair are the musical legacy of Pau Casals as a musician who mastered every aspect of his art (he was a performer, conductor, composer and teacher) and his humanistic legacy linked to the contemporary approach to advocating peace, democracy and human rights. "The name Pau Casals lets us recover a historical figure who has been poorly treated and his important legacy," said Martinell.

"He worked tirelessly for human rights – for example, he refused to play in the Soviet Union from 1919 or in Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy – and he retired to Prades to oppose the Franco regime. He was also a tireless anti-nuclear weapons activist from the 1950s," said Fuster-Sobrepere. "He also used music and its pedagogical, disciplinary and cultural values as a tool to improve society. In addition, he was one of the early champions of cultural rights as human rights, something that the UN has now ratified in several declarations."


A long journey

Although it is only just coming up to its second anniversary, since its creation the UNESCO Pau Casals Chair has already carried out several initiatives linked to its mission around the values advocated by the musician. Among other activities, three conferences have been held:

In the same vein, the workshop on Educating in Cultural Rights was organized. The workshop was for public policy professionals and aimed to increase their knowledge and awareness in the cultural and educational arena. "This idea of educating in cultural rights and educating for peace are two fundamental aspects of Pau Casals' career," said Martinell, who explained that "he helped create a network of solidarity, a kind of relief fund for musicians and performers who were persecuted for their ideas or escaping from places at war. It is a very topical issue."

The Chair also awards research grants to research projects on the cellist's musical and humanistic legacy. In the first edition, in 2023, the following projects were selected from among 51 applications: The evolution of international protection mechanisms for musicians: a historical perspective, submitted by Laurence Cuny, and From Festívola to the Prelude of El Pessebre. A first approach to the catalog of Pablo Casals’ musical work from his sardanas, submitted jointly by Anna Costal and Albert Fontelles. The second edition, in 2024, was open to international entries and received 26 applications, many of them of a high level. The winners will be announced shortly.

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