A reverential life of the great Spanish cellist, whose commanding career spanned the better part of the century and proceeded in storybook order through some of the most glamorous scenes and dramatic events the century presented. Reading this one can almost believe he was predestine, as Paderewski put it, borrowing Schubert's phrase for young Brahms. From humble, if musical, beginnings he rose to enjoy royal patronage, salon society, and international celebrity and was yet unfazed enough to renounce public life altogether in a grand gesture of republican protest -- to emerge nine years later, not only with his assorted and illustrious friendships intact, but as a universal culture hero of a large order. This is a rather incongruous biography for a small, bald, almost imperviously principled man of conservative tastes and moderate inclinations: obviously the inner grace must have been great, and there must have been more to it than the inert virtues Kirk isolates for us. The external material is fabulous -- tours, personalities, anecdotes, quips, the glamor and romance of times past, a detailed musical history -- but Casals at the center remains something of a personage, with only traces of elfin tartness to remind us that it isn't Poor Richard there straddling the Guarneri.