Zuill Bailey, “one of the finest cellists alive today” (Classical Net), adds a pair of major works for cello by Benjamin Britten to his impressive array of critically acclaimed albums that include his seminal recording of Bach: Cello Suites, the beloved double disc Beethoven: Complete Works for Cello and Piano made with Simone Dinnerstein, Brahms: Works for Cello and Piano, the Elgar and Dvorak concertos and Russian Masterpieces for Cello and Orchestra.
Writing about the Bach recording, which immediately soared to the number 1 spot on the Billboard Charts when it was released in 2010, The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote: “Bailey's mission is to underscore the music's brilliance, but he ends up proving his own as well." A similar phenomenon occurs on this latest release, which features a live performance of Britten’s knotty and profound Symphony for Cello and Orchestra (Op. 68), recorded with the North Carolina Symphony and Music Director Grant Llewellyn, and the substantial, theatrical Sonata in C Major for cello and piano (Op. 65) recorded at Oberlin’s brand new state-of-the-art recording studio at Clonick Hall with the electrifying pianist Natasha Paremski.
Here, Britten’s effortless distillation of the range of human emotions, on both a personal and universal scale, finds itself in the capable hands of an “articulate, selfless and communicative musician” (Gramophone) who has built his reputation on deeply soulful performances of the great cello repertoire that eschew affectation and melodrama.
Both pieces were written in the early 1960s for Mstislav Rostropovich, one of the all-time great cellists and one of Britten’s most important musical collaborators. While Bailey, who started playing cello the year that Britten died, never had the luxury of working with Britten, the two are nonetheless kindred spirits of sorts, reaching across the millennial line to express the full range and depth of both human sentiment and musical color. The result is one of the most vital recordings to come out of the Britten centenary.