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Britten: Cello Symphony; Cello Sonata / Zuill Bailey

Release Date: 01/14/2014 
Label:  Telarc   Catalog #: 34412   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Zuill BaileyNatasha Paremski
Conductor:  Grant Llewellyn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North Carolina Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 56 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRITTEN Cello Symphony. 1 Cello Sonata 2 Zuill Bailey (vc); 1 Grant Llewellyn, cond; 2 Natasha Paremski (pn); 1 North Carolina SO TELARC 34412 (56:10)

This latest release by Zuill Bailey finds the cellist in excellent form playing the Britten Read more Cello Symphony and Cello Sonata. His famed singing tone is now coupled with a slightly darker sound than I recall from previous releases, and his interpretations are, as usual, first-rate. As usual, Telarc favors an overly warm, almost ambient sound quality, which to my ears dulls somewhat the “bite” of the orchestra, but one cannot fault the playing of the North Carolina orchestra under Grant Llewellyn. Bailey gets the full measure of the Cello Symphony , composed for Rostropovich in 1964. The problem is that, to my ears, it is rather inferior Britten: well constructed, but inevitably saying nothing. The orchestral interjections come and go, sounding excited and momentous yet conveying very little, and overall I find the work too episodic, lacking a clear focus. (Although Britten thought it “the finest thing I’ve written,” I don’t agree). Nevertheless, Bailey’s impassioned playing is so good that he almost convinces you it is a great work, and that in itself is the mark of a superb artist. He makes every note and phrase count for something and is totally wrapped up in it.

On the other hand, the Cello Sonata (1961) is a very fine piece, in my view one of Britten’s greatest chamber works. Here, too, Bailey is compelling, and the music itself is so much more interesting (and well written) that it holds your attention from first note to last. I’m not sure why Bailey’s long-time sonata partner, Simone Dinnerstein, is not playing with him on this recording, but happily Paremski is a very sensitive if less dynamic accompanist, and she handles her assignment with elegance and style. Indeed, the two of them penetrate deeply into the heart of the score, eliciting feelings of loneliness and introspection from the many quiet passages and building up to moments of tension in such a way that, emotionally, it feels as if they are “capping the geyser,” so to speak, able to just hold back from full emotional outbursts while keeping listeners on the edge of their seats. I was particularly impressed by the third movement (“Elegia”), not just from a musical but also from an emotional standpoint.

All in all, this is certainly an outstanding artistic achievement for Bailey. I only wish that I liked the Cello Symphony more than I did.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Symphony for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 68 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Zuill Bailey (Cello)
Conductor:  Grant Llewellyn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North Carolina Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1963; England 
Venue:  Live  Meymandi Concert Hall, Progress energy C 
Length: 34 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Sonata for Cello and Piano in C major, Op. 65 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Natasha Paremski (Piano), Zuill Bailey (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1961; England 
Date of Recording: 08/19/2013 
Venue:  Live  Clonick Hall, Oberlin Conservatory of Mu 
Length: 20 Minutes 3 Secs. 

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