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Haydn: Cello Concertos / Zuill Bailey, Robin O'Neill, Philharmonia Orchestra

Release Date: 03/16/2018
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30094
Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn Performer:  Zuill Bailey Conductor:  Robin O'Neill Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra

Zuill Bailey, widely considered one of the premiere cellists in the world, is a Grammy Award winner, distinguished soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, Artistic Director and teacher. His rare combination of celebrated artistry, technical wizardry and engaging personality has secured his place as one of the most sought after and active cellists today.

R E V I E W S:

"Playing a 1693 Matteo Gofriller cello, obviously with modern fittings and setup, Bailey bows not (read “bows” in both meanings) to ancien régimes. His tone is warm, vibrant, and full-throated, and he embraces vibrato unapologetically. These are Romantic readings, especially so of the larger-scaled D-Major Concerto, with expressive
Read more phrasing dependent on devices such as rubato, tenuto, and telling use of dynamics. None of these techniques, however, exceeds common sense or good taste.

Purists, of course, will turn away from these performances on grounds that they’re unmindful of both the prescriptions and proscriptions of the historically informed, but that, in my opinion, is their loss. I really like Bailey’s read on these concertos and find his playing, and that of the Philharmonia Orchestra under Robin O’Neill, to have great warmth, beauty of tone, and a bearing of nobility. For me these performances capture the spirit of Haydn’s style, even if they may not adhere to the letter of the law. But music, or at least our emotional response to it, is beyond any law or often any rational explanation.

We like what we like, and we don’t like what we don’t like. Within that construct, Bailey’s Haydn falls squarely on my “like” side of the equation. Performance-wise, I would have to say that Bailey probably replaces my heretofore favorite in these concertos, cellist Jan Vogler with the Virtuosi Saxoniae. My only caveat is that Vogler includes one of those two misattributed concertos, the one in D Major, Hob VIIb:4, now believed to be by Costanzi. Otherwise, for unrepentant “modern”instrument, “modern”-interpretation versions of Haydn’s two authentic cello concertos, Bailey gets top billing in my book. Recommended to those who still appreciate new “good old-fashioned,” pre-HIP music-making."

Jerry Dubins, Fanfare

The transformation of Zuill Bailey from a young, dynamic and respected but not internationally famous cellist to one of the top names in the world has been, for me personally, one of the most satisfying things in recent years. I’ve been a fan of his since he was on the old St. Paul Sunday radio program on NPR back in the early 2000s, playing outstanding versions of the cello repertoire, through his Telarc years where he finally became something of a household name in America, to his present-day status. And he deserves every bit of it.

These wonderful performances of the Haydn Cello Concerti compare quite favorably to the marvelous performance of No. 2 left us by the late, great Emanuel Feuermann, and like Feuermann, Bailey plays with a pure tone using a quick vibrato throughout rather than the ahistorical “straight tone” so much in vogue nowadays. This gives his playing heart, and his close attention to the use of dynamics gives his playing great color. Like Feuermann, he also occasionally employs a minimal portamento (you can hear this a couple of times in the slow movement of Concerto No. 1) which is also proper style. It’s the kind of playing that does not so much grab you by the throat as it draws the listener inward. Bailey can be quite dynamic when he wants to be, but more often than not he seduces. This was a feature of his playing that impressed me so deeply on those old radio broadcasts, particularly in the first movement he played of the Debussy Cello Sonata so long ago—a work I still wish he’d record complete!

And happily, he has here a conductor who is on his wavelength (not the case in all of his concerto recordings, alas). Robin O’Neill, whose work I did not previously know, leads the Philharmonia Orchestra in a performance that uses very little if any string vibrato, but still manages to play with dynamic inflection and a sense of musicality. He is the perfect foil for Bailey here, matching him in his sensitivity of phrasing as well as rhythmic drive. Listen, for instance, to the fast final movement of these concerti, where both cellist and orchestra are in perfect synch, particularly in the rapid passages where lightness of touch is so important. It reminds me of the splendid performance he gave of the Haydn Cello Sonata No. 1 with one of his favorite partners, pianist Awadagin Pratt. They are so tightly interconnected that they breathe the music together. And just listen to the spectacular way he plays the cadenza in the first movement of Concerto No. 2! This is truly spectacular yet still lyrical. Pure Zuill Bailey.

This album is a must for Haydn fanciers as well as for all Zuill Bailey fans. Chalk up another outstanding album to his growing discography.

-- Lynn René Bayley, The Art of Music Lounge

The cello playing former sidekick of pianist Simone Dinnerstein lands on a label known for promoting piano works, front and center with an orchestra in tow. Giving new breath to warhorse repertoire, Bailey has the touch showing he can leave contemporary works behind and ply his trade like a master on the golden classical oldies. A great Sunday afternoon set, this is classy classic work that demands to be played in the foreground with rapt attention paid as it's due. Hot stuff that can bring new fans into the tent as well.

-- MidWest Record


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