Cellist Zuill Bailey is internationally renowned for his expressive and enlightening performances and is acclaimed as “one of the finest cellists alive today” with “few rivals in terms of sheer sound.” On Muhly & Bloch (Steinway & Sons, 30049), Mr. Bailey and the Indianapolis Symphony orchestra, under the baton of conductor Jun Märkl, deliver a magnificent live recording of music by Nico Muhly and Ernest Bloch.
The recording opens with Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo, Hebraic Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra which has its source in the Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes 1:2-9. Bloch had originally composed its three sections for voice and orchestra but changed it to a more universal voice – that of the cello - after becoming friends with the famed cellist Alexandre Barjansky. Zuill Bailey’s excellent cello interpretation of the six essential thematic ideas in section one are symbolized by the cello as the meditative voice of King Solomon, while the full orchestral tutti symbolizes King Solomon’s environment, his world and his experiences. Bailey opens the first section with a brooding lamentful solo followed by a deep cadenza. The orchestra accompanies with gentle support from time to time departing to let Solomon speak. Bailey’s cello performance is emotionally powerful, convincing, melodic and reveals his superb lyricism.
In the second section, which introduces the shofar-like theme and texture, Bailey’s solo cello immediately returns to the motif of the cadenza. This section builds and accelerates until the largest climax of the piece occurs. The third section is fatalistic, despairing, and builds on ideas from the first and second sections. The coda is incredibly sad, ending on a low D. Overall, Mr. Bailey and the orchestra both give an emotional performance of Bloch’s masterpiece.
By contrast, this high-intensity, world premiere recording of 33-year old Nico Muhly’s Cello Concerto is a vibrant mélange of music inspired by the textural complexity of Henri Dutilleux’s Métaboles, ambient drones, virtuosic lyricism and fast process music. During its three parts, Mr. Bailey performs this impressionistic voyage with flawless dignity and skillful sustenance.
The recording concludes with Ernest Bloch’s Three Jewish Poems which initiated Bloch’s well-known “Jewish Cycle” that lasted from 1911-1915. The poems: Danse, Rite and Cortege funébre were dedicated to Bloch’s late father and musically depict somber colors that are mystical and languorous; emotionally solemn music as heard in rituals; and sorrowful music with simple and serene melodies that arise from the depths of the orchestra as a consolation.
Overall, the Muhly & Bloch recording beautifully reveals Zuill Bailey’s virtuosity as a cellist and gives this gift of music exceptional clarity. With its excellent sonorities and great technical and production values, it is a recording that skillfully documents Bailey's amazing technical facility and flawless command of his instrument, the “rosette” 1693 Matteo Goffriller cello.