Bach, Cello Suites, Z. Bailey
(released on February 2, 2010)
Telarc TEL-31978-02 | 140'32"
Beethoven, Complete Works for Cello and Piano, Z. Bailey, S. Dinnerstein
(released on August 25, 2009)
Telarc CD-80740 | 68'46"
On their WPAS recital Bailey and Weiss will open with the longest of the three sets of cello and piano variations Beethoven composed, a set of twelve in G major on "See, the conqu'ring hero comes" from Handel's oratorio Judas Maccabaeus (WoO 45, from 1796). In many ways the pianist is the star of this piece, so it will likely be quite different with Weiss replacing Dinnerstein in concert. Bailey's Beethoven recording with Dinnerstein is good if not a must-have, the duo's athletic approach leading to a vigorous interpretation with a few overly affected moments. Bailey's tone is generally clear and his attacks crisp and well enunciated, his most objectionable fault coming from an occasional overzealous scrubbing of the strings that leads to a raspy paucity of that tone. No sforzando goes unhammered.
Bailey has also recorded the Bach solo cello suites, a new release he will celebrate tonight at another local concert, in the quirky venue An die Musik LIVE! in Baltimore, with some of the suites. We have written extensively about the suites, a few years ago now, and recordings continue to appear (Sebastian Klinger and many others). In an interview, Bailey described his approach to these pieces, centerpieces of the cello repertoire, as "so personal" that "it changes from day to day." The sound of the recording seems in keeping with his own summation of his interpretation, "a highly expressive Baroque style." The fast movements are mostly rhythmically animated, a metrical regularity underscoring the nature of the dances, while some of the slow movements are too indulgent. The worst sound of all, the deciding factor on so many recordings of the suites, is the sixth suite, on which the best performance ever to reach my ears remains the recording of Bruno Cocset, on a reproduction of a violoncello piccolo specially crafted to the demands of the piece. The tessitura of the work does not really fit the modern cello, and with a dramatically tending performer like Bailey, the temptation to force the sound high on the A string is too much to resist.
Go hear Zuill Bailey for yourself, playing Bach this evening at An die Musik LIVE! in Baltimore (May 1, 8 pm) or in his WPAS recital on Tuesday (May 4, 7:30 pm) at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.