Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cellist Zuill Bailey Returns to Harrisburg on Nov 17th

Not too many years ago, Central Pennsylvania was introduced to Zuill Bailey as part of the "Next Generation Festivals" that Ellen Hughes organized with pianist Awadagin Pratt through WITF with support from numerous schools, contributors and organizations across the region.

Since then, he's performed on some other stages you may have heard of, like the Kennedy Center, Alice Tully Hall, the 92nd Street Y, not to mention also Carnegie Hall.

He has gotten great reviews around the country, like"Bristles with rare virtuosic fire" - Chicago Tribune; "Nothing short of transcendent" - Buffalo News; and from Lima, Peru's El Comercio, "One of the premier cellists in the world."

Announcing that Zuill Bailey has just been signed to an exclusive contract with Telarc Recordings, the company's president, Robert Woods, commented: 'Zuill's musical talent is world-class, and he is a delightful throwback to artists who possess charisma and entertain an audience while being true to music in every way."

Joined by pianist Robert Koenig, Zuill Bailey will be playing works by Stravinsky, Mendelssohn and Brahms on Tuesday, November 17th, at 8pm on the stage of Harrisburg's Whitaker Center.

The program opens with Claude Debussy's Cello Sonata, one of the last works he composed but a work that is, despite his illness and the time he wrote it in (surrounded by the bad news of World War I), full of humor. It's not what we normally think of with Debussy and his "Impressionism" - it's actually a very spare work, Neo-Classical in style.

Given the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Felix Mendelssohn this year, if one needs an excuse to program his music, his 2nd Cello Sonata concludes the first half of the program.

From the classically-lined works of Debussy and Mendelssohn, then, the concert concludes with two full-blooded Romantic works by Johannes Brahms: an early work, the Scherzo he wrote for the F.A.E. Violin Sonata (arranged here for cello and piano) and a fairly late piece, his 2nd Cello Sonata in F Major, Op.99. (I've written more about these pieces, here.)

In this video, a TV interview from WUSA in Washington DC, he talks about his cello, made in 1693 by Matteo Goffriller and formerly owned by Mischa Schneider of the Budapest String Quartet. It's an instrument that was 17 years old when Bach wrote his cello suites. Then he plays the Prelude to the G Major Suite by Bach.

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Here's another video, this one from Telarc, promoting Zuill's most recent recording "Russian Masterpieces" which was released earlier this year. He talks about the influences of the great cellist Rostropovich and the music of Tchaikovsky (his Mozart-inspired "Rococo Variations") and Shostakovich (his 1st Cello Concerto). Based on the little clip of the Shostakovich I heard in this video, I plan on adding this disc to my own collection: it's a very dramatic, incisive work and I think he hits everything just right in his approach to it, both musically and emotionally.
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As Ellen wrote to concert-goers on the e-mailing list:

One of my first acts as new director of Market Square Concerts was to arrange for Zuill Bailey to come to play his cello in Harrisburg. I'd met him when he played chamber music in WITF's former Next Generation Festival, and I was impressed, not only with his phenomenal strengths as a musician, but also with his ability to communicate that music visually. He's a fabulous argument in favor of attending live performance because of his communicative gifts as well as his musical ones.

I hope you will be able to come to his concert on Tuesday, November 17 at 8 at Whitaker Center. His accompanist is Robert Koenig, much sought-after as a collaborative pianist with a following of his own. They'll be playing sonatas by Debussy, Brahms and Mendelssohn, and you can find out more about it at our website,

Tickets are $28 and are available at the BOX that night or in advance at 717 214-ARTS. For this concert we are able to offer $5 tickets for college/university students and faculty. School-age students are free.

A lot of people want to know how to pronounce Zuill's name. It rhymes with cool!

- Ellen

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I'll second that! Hope to see you there!

- Dr. Dick

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