At a casual glance, the pairing of Nico Muhly’s 2012 Cello Concerto with “Schelomo” and the “Three Jewish Poems” of Ernest Bloch might seem an odd combination. But listen to the world premiere recording of this lush, invigorating score in context, and the relationships become clearer. Muhly’s music has often been suffused with a luxuriant beauty that is unafraid — for better or worse — of teetering into sentimentality, and it’s a quality that his concerto shares with the score that Bloch subtitled a “Hebraic Rhapsody.” In the first two conjoined movements, Muhly sends the soloist — here an impassioned and stalwart Zuill Bailey — into long-breathed oratory against a fragrant, shimmering orchestral backdrop; the music keeps tiptoeing up to the border of preciousness, only to pull back in the nick of time. As if to clear the air, Muhly winds up with a bright-toned, light-footed finale that blends Steve Reich with Mendelssohn. Bailey’s playing is strong-limbed and sensitive throughout, and there are well-judged contributions by the Indianapolis Symphony under conductor Jun Märkl. — Joshua Kosman

 

NICO MUHLY

CELLO CONCERTO

ZUILL BAILEY; INDIANAPOLIS SYMPHONY

STEINWAY & SONS