Raleigh Chamber Music Guild Shines
RCMG's Masters Series Lives up to Its Name with World-Class Artists in Top Form
April 28, 2013 - Raleigh, NC:
The Raleigh Chamber Music Guild's "big" series of concerts, the "Masters Series," generally presented in Fletcher Opera Theater, brings big-name national and international artists to the capital for distinctive programs. For its final downtown offering of the season, the Guild featured a brilliant trio headed by pianist Navah Perlman and graced by comparably splendid young string players Philippe Quint, violin, and Zuill Bailey, cello. Perlman and Bailey have long-standing ties to Raleigh and central NC, she having been one of the first "outside" soloists of note to have graced a concert by the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra, and Bailey having long been a favorite here among chamber and orchestral music circles. The trio seemed a logical pick for the RCMG's season finale, and it made sense to have them be the chief attraction for the presenter's annual fund-raising gala, too. Enter the sequester! Quint and Bailey arrived in Raleigh with time to spare, but Perlman's flight was delayed and delayed and delayed again, ostensibly (she said) due to mechanical problems, but why not blame congress, that collection of albatrosses that burden the nation's collective neck? As a result, the string players improvised a Saturday night program (at Richard Ruggero's piano emporium!) consisting of three Bach cello suite preludes, delivered with breathtaking brilliance and insight, two relatively short excerpts from John Corigliano's score for The Red Violin, and the most dazzling performance of the Handel-Halvorsen violin-cello Passacaglia anyone present is likely ever to have heard. Indeed, it reminded one listener of Franco Corelli trying to out-sing Birgit Nilsson, back when both were in their prime. And more than a few sensed that the excitement and passion these young artists brought to the hairpin twists and turns in the Passacaglia perfectly encapsulated the hope all lovers of chamber music have for the future, a future being made secure by this new generation of dynamic "super players."
The visit also included a Sunday morning master class in Smedes Parlor, at Saint Mary's School, during which violinists Rebecca Shen and Samuel Zhu, violist Vishnu Gottiparthy, and cellist Grace Kim worked with the visiting artists on part of Shostakovich's Quartet No. 7 that had served as a prelude to the previous evening's gala festivities and that was heard yet again during a pre-concert program in the Fletcher lobby. Other class (and pre-concert) participants hailed from the Duke University String School, MYCO@UNC (two ensembles), and ECU. These groups, coached by some of our best regional artist-teachers, played some very good music (by Rachmaninoff, Turina, Beethoven, and Suk) and reinforced the hope of music lovers in attendance for the future; with young players like these in the pipeline, the prospects are bright.
It was during this master class that Bailey announced the morning's sad news of the death of cellist Janos Starker, to whom the afternoon program would be dedicated (and during which Bailey gave several informative and touching reminiscences from his collection of Starker stories.)
The Sunday afternoon program went through several metamorphoses since first announced last year, along the way, losing Beethoven's "Kakadu" Variations and the "Archduke" Trio plus Brahms' Trio in C Minor, and in their place gaining Beethoven's "Gassenhauer" Trio (originally for piano, clarinet, and cello) and the second trios of Shostakovich and Brahms.
To describe this concert as "exceptional" would be to understate the case. A great deal has been written about the music, of course, and while Beethoven's Op. 11 is not often heard, all three works are well known in chamber music circles. What elevated this performance considerably above the norm was the playing of the visiting artists. Each is a splendid soloist, and the ensemble has been together for a long time - Quint is a fairly recent arrival, but he has fit into the framework superbly. These people are brilliant intellectuals and gifted artists who have keen insight into the music they play. They possess technique in superabundance, so even difficult passages seem easy - and often elicit knowing and appreciative smiles and other acknowledgments from each other. Of course, all the other hallmarks of great playing are present in abundance: incisiveness, energy, skillful blends of tension and relaxation, precise attacks and releases, scrupulously-managed dynamics - you name them, and all the best musical qualities informed these artists' collective work.
Thus the Beethoven was a transport of joy and delight, with infectious interplay among all three musicians. The Shostakovich was set up with those aforementioned remarks about Starker and a Navah Perlman story of the composer telling a visiting quartet how to interpret his music by taking them on a walking tour of his neighborhood and its cemetery. Many members of the audience surely had heard this score, but just as surely few if any are likely to have heard it delivered with such stark intensity, sometimes bordering on despair, and with such haunting passion. It its wake, the Brahms came as a relief, reminding us that life can and does go on; this glowed from within, its occasionally autumnal lines seeming to reflect sunshine like leaves in light breezes, just starting to turn. The scherzo infectiously conveyed the greatest excitement, and the finale was a demonstration of barely bridled joy, flawlessly realized. The uproar at the conclusion of the concert was considerable, with many members of the audience standing and cheering their approval. Yes, it was that good. Again it is clear that the future of this art is secure, so long as artists like Perlman, Quint and Bailey continue to ply their trade at these exalted levels.
Extravagant Cello Performance
Zuill Bailey Caps Northwest Bach Festival with Extravagant Cello Performance-
The Spokesman Review- Donivan Johnson
The final concert of this year’s Northwest Bach Festival featured internationally renowned cellist Zuill Bailey performing all six of the Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by J.S. Bach. Bailey has been designated the festival’s new artistic director following the 20-year leadership of Gunther Schuller, who came from Boston for this performance.
Written while Bach was in the employ of Prince Leopold of Coethen, the six suites were part of a productive part of Bach’s life in which the violin sonatas and partitas, Brandenburg Concerti, book one of the “Well-Tempered Clavier” and many other instrumental works were composed.
Bailey began Suite No. 1 in G major without spoken introduction. When he finished he commented “I don’t know how my brain is going to go through the focus and inspiration.” Referring to the performance of all six suites in order during a single concert, Bailey added, “It’s a very scary thing.”
Before Bailey performed Suite No. 4 in E flat major, he wryly told his audience that “All the rules change. The music now becomes like an animal untamed.” He was referring to the difficult key of E flat and that it would be “beautiful for the keyboard.” He continued to enrich the audience with a demonstration of how his mother, an organist, played the Prelude from this suite for him when he was first learning it.
After a much-needed extended intermission, for both audience and performer, Bailey performed the final two suites: No. 5 in C minor and No. 6 in D major with consummate technique and unbelievable feeling for Bach’s music.
Thirty-six movements in nearly three hours and no two sounded anything alike. The infinite variety of Bach’s musical mind was fully matched by Bailey’s immense understanding of these six suites. He told the audience that “Bach teaches you about yourself; Bach is a complex medicine and no other composer shows us something new each time.”
In a review such as this I only have space enough to mention one musical element of many that, in the incredible acoustical environment of St. John’s Cathedral, really caught my attention and earned my absolute admiration: dynamics. Bailey’s subtle shading and nuance, especially in the Sarabande (slow) movements was astonishing. The Sarabande in the Suite No. 5, which renowned cellist Mstislav Rostropovich called “the essence of Bach’s genius,” was performed as if time and space were suspended for both performer and audience. Yo-Yo Ma played the same movement Sept. 11, 2002, at the site of the World Trade Center.
Bailey received well-deserved standing ovations both after the first and second parts of the concert. As an encore, he played once again the famous Prelude from Suite No. 1 in G major. He dedicated this encore to Schuller, who appeared deeply moved by this homage from his successor; the concert ended with Bailey saying “the circle is complete.”
Swept Away- Zuill Bailey Elgar with Santa Rosa Symphony
Classical Sonoma- Steve Osborn
He shared his treasure chest with all in attendance, pulling sounds out of his 1693 Matteo Gofriller cello that might have lain dormant for centuries. His tone was big, rich, velvety, and succulent. His technique was likewise flawless, and his intonation was superb. Mr. Bailey's most captivating aspect, however, was his musicality. He played one of his star vehicles--the Elgar Cello Concerto--to the hilt, unsheathing some memorable passages but also exposing some of its flaws.
The Elgar concerto, made famous by cellist Jacqueline du Pré, is a lush late-Romantic work replete with soaring lines and cavernous descents. The artist connected with the concerto's essence in the opening bars, spinning out a solo line that plunged dramatically to a sustained, resonant, elegiac low note. By the time the violas entered with their "infinite tune," Mr. Bailey had already established a somber yet opulent mood, a feeling that the orchestra sustained brilliantly under conductor Bruno Ferrandis.
The first movement was the most memorable element, both of the concerto and the performance. Bailey swayed gently as he played, his luxuriant vibrato matching his body language. He looked up at the ceiling, then down to his cello, then over to Mr. Ferrandis, seeming to draw as much inspiration from his surroundings as from his musical core. His playing was emotional, nowhere more so than in the powerful pizzicatos that bring the movement to a close.
The soloist, who seemed utterly relaxed throughout his performance, transitioned seamlessly to the Allegro second movement, which features finger-twisting passagework and rapid bowing. These were perfectly executed, earning him a smattering of applause at movement's end. In contrast, the Adagio third movement was tender and thinly orchestrated, almost like chamber music.
... Mr. Bailey's playing was outstanding, ranging from barn-dance pyrotechnics to breathtaking pianissimos....
Range of Emotions Sweep Through Weill Hall
San Francisco Classical Voice- Jeff Dunn
... I reviewed this concerto twice last year, with two different soloists — popular with cellists — and both were excellent. But this third time is the charm, if you can associate that word with this very sad piece, written right after the war that destroyed so much that Elgar believed in. Bailey’s was the best rendition I’ve heard this century. That he had all the technical chops was an essential, but he also exquisitely conveyed, both in musical and bodily expression, the pain of loss that permeates the slow movement.
Bailey also exquisitely conveyed, both in musical and bodily expression, the pain of loss.
Bailey and Ferrandis were a great team together: They had the elusive knack of getting the tempos just right and putting in the rubatos where they belong — a standard stumbling block for so many non-British performers. Furthermore, they took advantage of Weill’s terrific acoustics at low volumes by producing the faintest of pianissimos where required and thus expanding the variety of dynamic range....