September 21, 2014

Sunday at 3:00pm

 Zuill Bailey, cello
Tickets $30


Symphonie No. 2, Op. 17, C minor “Little Russian”-Tchaikovsky
Sinfonia Concertante, Op. 125-Prokofiev
Zuill Bailey, cello


Today’s concert is sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. James Robertson.

Zuill Bailey

Zuill Bailey is widely considered one of the premiere cellists in the world. His rare combination of celebrated artistry, technical wizardry, and engaging personality, have secured his place as one of the most sought after and active cellists today.

A consummate concerto soloist, Mr. Bailey performs with the symphony orchestras of Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Dallas, Louisville, Honolulu, Milwaukee, Nashville, Toronto, Minnesota, Utah, Israel, and the Bruchner Orchestra in Linz, Austria. He has collaborated with such conductors as Itzhak Perlman, Alan Gilbert, Andrew Litton, James DePriest and Stanislav Skrowaczewski and has been featured with musical luminaries Leon Fleisher, Jaime Laredo, the Juilliard String Quartet, Lynn Harrell and Janos Starker.

Mr. Bailey has appeared at Disney Hall, the Kennedy Center, the United Nations, Alice Tully Hall, the 92nd St. Y and Carnegie Hall, where he made his debut performing the U.S. premiere of Miklos Theodorakis’ “Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra.” In addition, he made his New York recital debut in a sold out performance of the complete Beethoven Cello Sonatas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

His international concerts include celebrated performances with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra in its 50th anniversary tour of Russia as well as concerts in Australia, the Dominican Republic, France, Israel, Spain, Hong Kong, Jordan, Mexico, South America and the United Kingdom. Festival appearances include Ravinia, the Interlochen Center for the Arts, Manchester Cello Festival (UK), Wimbledon (UK), Consonances- St. Nazaire (France), Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Deia Music Festival- Mallorca (Spain), Santa Fe, Caramoor, Chautauqua, Bravo!, Vail Valley, Maverick Concert Series, and the Music Academy of the West. In addition, he was the featured soloist performing the Elgar Cello Concerto at the Bard Festival in the World Premiere of the Doug Varrone Dance Company’s performance of “Victorious.”

Zuill Bailey is an exclusive recording artist on Telarc International. His “Bach Cello Suites” CD immediately soared to the Number One spot on the Classical Billboard Charts. Zuill Bailey’s critically acclaimed recordings include his highly anticipated “Britten Cello Symphony/Sonata” CD, live performances of the Dvorak and Elgar Cello Concertos, with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, “Brahms” complete works for cello and piano with pianist Awadagin Pratt, and “Russian Masterpieces” showcasing the works of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich performed with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. Other releases include his innovative “Spanish Masters” CD for Zenph Studios, where he forms a unique duo blending with recordings of composer Manuel de Falla. His discography also includes a debut recital disc for Delos, Cello Quintets of Boccherini and Schubert with Janos Starker, Saint-Saen’s Cello Concertos No. 1 and 2 “Live,” and the Korngold Cello Concerto with Kaspar Richter and the Bruckner Orchestra Linz for ASV.

Zuill Bailey was awarded the Classical Recording Foundation Award for 2006 and 2007 for Beethoven’s complete works for Cello and Piano. The highly touted two disc set with pianist Simone Dinnerstein was released on Telarc worldwide. In celebration of his recordings and appearances, Kalmus Music Masters is releasing “Zuill Bailey Performance Editions,” which encompasses the core repertoire of cello literature.

Network television appearances include a recurring role on the HBO series Oz, NBC’s Homicide, A&E, NHK TV in Japan, a live broadcast and DVD release of the Beethoven Triple Concerto performed in Tel Aviv with Itzhak Perlman conducting the Israel Philharmonic, and a performance with the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico City. Mr. Bailey collaborated in the televised production of the Cuban premiere of Victor Herbert’s Cello Concerto No. 2 with the National Orchestra of Cuba. He has been heard on NPR’s Morning Edition, Tiny Desk Concert, Performance Today, Saint Paul Sunday, BBC’s In Tune, XM Radio’s Live from Studio II, Sirius Satellite Radio’s Virtuoso Voices, the KDFC Concert Series, Minnesota Public Radio, WFMT and RTHK Radio Hong Kong.

Mr. Bailey received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the Peabody Conservatory and the Juilliard School. His primary teachers include Loran Stephenson, Stephen Kates and Joel Krosnick. Mr. Bailey performs on a 1693 Matteo Gofriller Cello, formerly owned by Mischa Schneider of the Budapest String Quartet. In addition to his extensive touring engagements, he is the Artistic Director of El Paso Pro-Musica (Texas), Artistic Director of the Sitka Summer Music Festival and Series, (Alaska), the Northwest Bach Festival ( Washington), and Professor of Cello at the University of Texas at El Paso.

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Symphony No. 2 in C minor, op. 17, “Little Russian”

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky

Born in Kamsko-Votkinsk, Vyatka province, May 7, 1840; died in St. Petersburg, November 6, 1893

Tchaikovsky began composing the joyful and extroverted Second Symphony in the summer of 1872. He was visiting his sister and her husband at their estate in Kamenka in the Ukraine, also known as Little Russia. The peasant songs he heard there and incorporated in his Symphony led music critic Nikolay Kashkin to dub it the “Little Russian.”

On his further travels that summer Tchaikovsky came close to losing what he had completed of the work in an incident with his luggage. He later delighted in telling the story of how he had passed himself off as “Prince Volkonsky, gentleman of the Emperor’s bedchamber” in order to get a quick change of horses at a staging post. At the next stop he realized he had left his luggage behind and, not wanting to go back and admit his identity, sent someone else. The postmaster would not release the luggage of such an important person, so Tchaikovsky was forced to go back himself. Relieved to retrieve his luggage without revealing his deception, Tchaikovsky engaged the postmaster in conversation. To the composer’s inquiry of the man’s name, the postmaster responded “Tchaikovsky.” Suspecting him of playing a joke in return, Tchaikovsky would not be satisfied until the friend he had been visiting nearby confirmed that the postmaster’s name really was Tchaikovsky!

That fall the composer continued work on the Symphony in Moscow, writing in mid-November to his brother Modest, “It so preoccupies me that I’m in no fit state for anything else. This work of genius (as Kondratyev calls my symphony) is nearing completion. . . . I think it’s my best work yet in terms of polished form, not hitherto my strong suit.” Over the holidays he showed the score to the members of “The Five”—Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Borodin, Balakirev, and Cui—who reacted favorably. “I played the finale at a soirée at Rimsky-Korsakov’s,” wrote Tchaikovsky, “and the whole company almost tore me to pieces with rapture.” They must have been particularly attracted to Tchaikovsky’s use of folk songs, which satisfied their nationalistic ideals. Cui, nevertheless, later wrote a scathing review of the work.

Tchaikovsky dedicated the Symphony to the Moscow branch of the Russian Musical Society, which quickly scheduled its performance for January 24, 1873. The death of the Society’s patroness, however, forced its postponement until February 7. The Symphony’s great success on that occasion resulted in several more performances that season both in Moscow and in St. Petersburg. Nevertheless, Tchaikovsky decided that he needed to revise the work, which he accomplished in 1879–80 while he was in Rome. He listed the revisions to his publisher: “1. I have composed the first movement afresh, leaving only the introduction and coda in their previous form. 2. I have rescored the second movement. 3. I’ve altered the third movement, shortening and rescoring it. 4. I’ve shortened the finale and rescored it.”

The new version was first performed on February 2, 1881, by the St. Petersburg branch of the Russian Musical Society conducted by Karl Sike. Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest wrote, “Not a single critic noted the changes in the work, nor the fact that the first movement was entirely new.” The original first movement was never published, though it has been recorded. While many commentators prefer the original movement, Tchaikovsky thought his revision a great improvement—he certainly succeeded in clarifying the structure and lightening its texture.

The slow introduction begins with a variant on the folk tune “Down by Mother Volga” in a meditative horn solo. The fast main section contrasts an exuberant theme with a more lyrical oboe melody, which Tchaikovsky created out of his original first theme. He had to incorporate a bit of his original first theme in this theme’s eighth-note accompaniment figures in order to justify his retention of the original opening of the development section. The movement concludes with a return of the opening horn solo.

The slow movement was the beneficiary of a theme from Tchaikovsky’s 1869 opera Undine, which he later destroyed. It had served as a wedding march in the last act of the opera; here the theme is employed as a refrain, or A in the scheme A-B-A-C-A-B-A. The most extended episode, C, employs “Spin, O my spinner”—which Tchaikovsky had already arranged as No. 6 in Fifty Russian Folk Songs—for a series of variations.

The busy Scherzo is greatly effective in its rhythmic drive, which Tchaikovsky enlivens by metric changes and unexpected accents. The duple-meter trio interrupts the momentum; its main theme, featuring the winds, suggests a folk source, as does the violin counterpoint.

Tchaikovsky referred to his Finale as “The Crane,” after the Ukrainian folk song that appears in a majestic introduction—somewhat like Mussorgsky’s Great Gate of Kiev composed the following year—then as a first theme that initiates a little series of variations. The contrasting theme presents a lyrical melody incorporating syncopations. The development section daringly combines the two themes, a wide-stepping bass, and remote modulations in lighthearted abandon. He shortened the Finale by cutting the recapitulation of the first theme in the revised version—the folk song, after all, gets abundant exposure. The recapitulation winds down to a dramatic stroke of the tam-tam (gong) in preparation for the whirlwind coda that closes the work.

©Jane Vial Jaffe


Sinfonia concertante in E minor, op. 125

Sergei Prokofiev

Born in Sontsovka, Ekaterinoslav district, Ukraine, April 23, 1891; died in Moscow, March 5, 1953

The Sinfonia concertante, Prokofiev’s last completed work in concerto form, constitutes a radical reworking of his First Cello Concerto, op. 58, which had been conceived in Paris in 1933, begun in earnest in 1934, and finally completed in 1938. The premiere of the First Cello Concerto on November 26, 1938, by Berezovsky with the State Symphony Orchestra in Moscow received such devastating reviews that Prokofiev withdrew the work.

In 1947 Prokofiev heard the Concerto successfully revived by the twenty-year-old Rostropovich and, congratulating the cellist backstage afterward, promised to rewrite it for him. Rostropovich reminded him of his promise every time they met, and in 1950, after his successful premiere of the Cello Sonata, he finally persuaded the Prokofiev to rework the Cello Concerto. So close had the cellist and composer become, that Rostropovich even spent several summers with Prokofiev and his wife in the countryside at Nikolina Gora while they collaborated on the rewriting. The resultant work, at first called the Second Cello Concerto and premiered by Rostropovich on February 18, 1952, still dissatisfied the composer and late in 1952 he made further changes, finally calling it Sinfonia concertante. He did not live to hear the final version in performance.

Prokofiev may have settled on the title Sinfonia concertante because of the prominent and independent character of the orchestra part, but it contains no other soloist as the name traditionally implies. The work begins not with a customary fast movement but with an Andante, based on two themes—the first passionate and lyrical in the cello over a marching accompaniment and the second a quiet, glassy descending theme that imparts an eerie color. The opening of the impassioned first theme with its characteristic harmonic twist was taken over from the First Cello Concerto, as was the last portion of the theme, while newly written material occurs in between. The second theme also stems from the earlier work, but much of the movement’s elaboration was added, making the movement almost twice as long as its predecessor.

A cadenza-like passage for the cello introduces the sonata-form second movement. The first theme area contains a wealth of ideas—a dramatic theme for the cello over agitated accompaniment, only partially taken from the earlier concerto, and a unison passage and marchlike section, both from the previous work. The sweeping, cantabile second theme is one of the glories of the Sinfonia concertante, spun out over an incredibly broad stretch. At about the midpoint of the movement the soloist is provided with an extremely difficult cadenza, introduced by a remarkable passage of drum rolls and tone clusters. Further colorful orchestration effects abound such as the later flute, triangle, and brass accompaniment to the lyrical cello, which lends a comic touch. The final accelerating march to the close provides more opportunities for the soloist to dazzle.

Prokofiev had experimented with variation form for the Opus 58 Concerto, on which he elaborated for the present finale, but in a more standard key for the E minor work—E major instead of C major. Prokofiev varies two themes, the first yet another lyrical theme for the cello and the second having the quality of a folk dance. Again the imaginative treatment of the orchestra is noteworthy—the grotesque little march for the bassoon, the bass drum rumble and repeated notes in the cello accompanying the chorale-like brass, the striking celeste accompaniment in one of the variations, and toward the end the ominous low brass under virtuosic cello figuration. The dramatic conclusion accelerates, leaving the cellist playing in the stratosphere just before the final chord.

Rostropovich insured that the work would contain ample display opportunities for the soloist. Indeed several passages show such difficulty that Rostropovich went to the composer on behalf of some less accomplished cellists asking for alternate versions. The composer agreed but said he would marked them facilitazione meaning “simplified” rather than ossia meaning “alternative.” To Rostropovich’s query as to what he meant he replied, “No self-respecting musician would want to play a ‘simplified’ version.” Difficulties notwithstanding, the Sinfonia concertante is a wonderful work that ought to be programmed more often by the ever-expanding number of virtuosos today.

—©Jane Vial Jaffe