Bach: Cello Suites

Zuill Bailey

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Bach: Cello Suites Review

by Mike D. Brownell

Since their "re-discovery" early last century by Pablo Casals, the six unaccompanied suites for solo cello by J.S. Bach have easily become the most frequently recorded and debated works in the instrument's repertoire. Some performers have even gone so far as to record the suites multiple times throughout their career as their interpretation evolves. There's always the debate of which instrument to use, what kind of bow, whether to play using "period-practice" technique, and a myriad of other questions. The answers, despite assertions made by historians and even performers, must come from individual listeners. If, in reading this you know yourself to be a listener who prefers the suites to be played on a Baroque cello with a more period-minded interpretation, then you need proceed no further. Cellist Zuill Bailey's Telarc recording of the suites will not suit your tastes at all. If, on the other hand, you enjoy a more Romanticized, muscular reading, then Bailey's playing may be worth exploring. Bailey's suites are filled with wide-ranging dynamics, vigorous accents, and powerful, in-the-string playing. There are times when he pulls an astounding amount of sound and resonance from his Gofriller cello, nothing like the more staid playing of Bylsma. His tempo selection is generally middle-of-the-road, unlike the more impetuous speeds chosen in the early Ma recording. While this is certainly one of the more muscular, almost aggressive recordings of the suites available, Bailey still performs the works with deserved dignity and respect. Certainly not a set for everyone, Bailey's unique take on the suites will still find a home with many listeners.

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