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Sir Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto In E minor, opus 85
Bedrich Smetana: Selections from Má Vlast: Vysehrad – Vltava – Sárka

Zuill Bailey (cello), Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Krzysztof Urbanski (Conductor)
Recording: 2012 – 64’22
Telarc #TEL-34030-02 – Booklet in English

Telarc exclusive recording artist Zuill Bailey again displays his finesse by bringing a puissant interpretation of Elgar’s Cello Concerto to the stage. Recorded live with the Indianapolis Symphony, Zuill Bailey is spotlighted in the first half of this CD, the other half devoted to Smetana and the entire orchestra. Bailey draws our attention to Elgar’s sobering piece with enriched quality.

Sir Edward Elgar’s caliginous perspective in the Cello Concerto captured Britain’s post World War I mood in the most empathetic manner. The four movement opus begins with Bailey voraciously striking at four elegiac chords. This attention getter proceeds with Zuill Bailey playing with dramatic, economic intensity, yet grounded in full-bodied richness. These introductory notes weigh heavily on the listener’s ear. The opening “Adagio - Moderato” is slackened in a seesawing half note/quarter note cycle that lethargically patterns itself akin to Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, but with heftier position.

After a brief lento entrée, the second movement reveals Bailey’s clean line approach of repeated notes and impressive perpetual motion dialogue that immediately progresses into the 60 bar “Adagio” saturated with melancholic legato. The dynamics wrought by Bailey’s bow freeze us into a cold snap. But the true essence of Zuill Bailey’s chemistry on strings lies within the “Allegro - Moderato - Allegro, ma non troppo” that’s as powerful as that found in last year’s Dvorák recording (Read here).

Under the direction of Krzysztof Urbanski, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra moves to the center in this chronologically apportioned half of Bedrich Smetana’s six-sectioned tone poem, Má Vlast. Descriptive in nature, Diane Evans reveals the 10th century castle, “Vysehrad” (“The High Castle”), with a majestic cadenza on harp that quickly wraps into symphonic splendor, collapse and, ultimately, ruin all in a mere quarter-of-an-hour. The rendition is powerful, descriptive and convincing.

Probably the best known subsection of Smetana’s Má Vlast is the confluent “Vltava” (“The Moldau”) that Urbanski extrapolates with refreshing perspective. The crescendos and decrescendos are demonstrative yet never obligingly grand, giving justifiable argument to the aqueous stream as being truly the lifeblood of the Czech Republic.

“Sárka”, though composed as a full-blown opera by Leos Janácek, was also the name of the tertiary movement by Bedrich Smetana. Engaged with a tragic opening, this has to be one of the most captivating and intensely driven pieces on the CD. From horn to trombone to bassoon to clarinet, each orchestral section has an important stake. Urbanski maps out a comprehensive storyline which the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra follows to a tee.

With Zuill Bailey as the obvious star of the recording, this Elgar/Smetana combination provides nice contrasts of tone, texture and flavor, though grave in nature.

Christie Grimstad




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