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Bach: Cello Suites

4.6 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Cellist Zuill Bailey releases his Bach Suites for Solo Cello on February 2, 2010. All six suites were recorded in one week at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City in December, 2008, following years of preparation by Mr. Bailey. "I was unaware of the depths of the music as a young person, but came to realize that there are so many ways of interpreting Bach that it channels where a cellist is at that precise moment. It has become such a personal journey for me."

Zuill Bailey performs on a 1693 Matteo Gofriller Cello, formerly owned by Mischa Schneider of the Budapest String Quartet. The first surviving manuscripts of Bach's Cello Suites date from the middle and late 1720's. Bach's Suites disappeared from public view during the decades after his death. It was not until the early 20th century, when cellist Pablo Casals helped the works emerge from obscurity. "My evolution with these pieces mirrors the way the Bach Suites were actually perceived over the centuries. This has been my greatest musical undertaking so far," Bailey said.

Today, cellists regard the works as the pinnacle of their repertoire. "The Bach Cello Suites are the center point of my existence, and I think I speak for all cellists when I say that the music is the Cellistic Bible." Bailey adds, "For me, Bach is the mirror to the soul, and this recording of the Cello Suites truly reflects what is inside of me."

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Product Details

  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (February 2, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Telarc
  • ASIN: B0030GBSVQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,669 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dennis Witmer VINE VOICE on February 22, 2010
Format: Audio CD
I bought this CD yesterday (2/21/10), after watching Zuill Bailey at a concert in Fairbanks--his performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto was stunning with the orchestra; alive, precise, engaged--and then for his encore, he played two of the movements from the Bach Cello suites--he captured the audience with his music. My son is a young cellist, and someone rigged the seating arrangements so we had a front row seat to watch him perform--and it was a theatrical performance--his body language and his breathing both seemed at times over the top, almost as if they might overshadow the music. But somehow he came down on the right side of the line--he convinced me that his performance was based on an understanding of the music--an honest attempt to express the feelings of the music with the audience. At the end of his second encore he held the last note for what seemed like an eternity, that faded into a silence that lasted for perhaps twenty seconds (my son told me today he counted to 20...)

I've been listening to the CD almost continuously since I got home from the concert--the music is familiar--I've owned the Rostropovich double CD of the Bach Suites since it's release--but I always found his interpretation to be mournful, full of Russian sadness. When the Berlin wall fell and I heard that Rostropovich sat by the checkpoint playing the Bach Cello Suites "because of the joy" I wondered what he was talking about. But Bailey shows that Rostropovich was right--this is music of joy, and Bailey is out to prove it. And I'm happy to listen to his proof...
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I've listened to these suites for more years than I would care to admit, yet I have never heard a performance of them with the life, feeling, and depth of these by Bailey. Prior to purchasing these, I had never heard of him. His interpretation of these works emphasizes the great sweep of melody and energy of what are, truly, dances, and yet in the sarabandes they whisper with such incredible subtlety and magic, without making them bland through over-refinement. I have owned the Yo-Yo Ma, Isserlis, Fournier, Starker, and Bylsma performances and none of them have the commanding power of Bailey's. I've also listen to one of the Casals recordings and while it was this recording which first introduced these works to me, the age of the sound has become a detriment. If you love this music check out the samples, I hope you can hear them as I have.
One proviso, my love for this recording has had the unfortunate consequence of my listening to my hundreds of other classical disks far less frequently. Could this performance be too good?
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Bailey's interpretations and playing are certainly heartfelt enough and grip the listener from the first note to last. Admittedly, however, I did not listen to them straight through; that might have been a long haul, and I doubt that Bach expected anybody to play them all at one sitting (although there is some evidence of the interconnections among the pieces, so, who knows, maybe Bach did want them played consecutively). Anyway, I listened to them two Suites at a time and found them delightful.

Joyous, meditative, lyrical, sorrowful, amiable, exuberant, swaggering, solemn, and regal by turns, the Suites provide a little something for everyone, and Bailey projects all of their many moods in what is probably the best-sounding recording of the works currently available.

Telarc have arranged the layout of the Suites three to a disc, with numbers one, three, and five on disc one. That makes sense, I suppose, since numbers one and three are among the most popular of the pieces. More important, Telarc afford the cello a firm, warm, rich sound, without being in any way hard or brittle. What's even more, the engineers nicely capture the soft acoustic bloom of the recording venue.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor
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Much has been said about the playing on this disc. I want to concentrate on the recording itself, and point out that when listening to a recording, it's also about the recording itself. While nothing will ever replace my love for the passion of Jacqueline DuPre on this piece, I have really fallen in love with these two discs. The most frequent criticism of Bailey's performances is that the recording is so closly miked that the accompanying musicians are too far removed into the background. Personally I love the Cello and I really like this. In listening to a Cello Concerto it is the Cello I have come to hear, not the 3rd Violinist.
In these solo offerings this is not a problem. Even on a modest stereo system you will probably hear subtle tonalities and harmonics you have never heard in this piece before. It is a revelation. Sound details that are usually reserved for a SACD recording, are here in abundance.
If you love the Cello, get the thing and do not worry so much about who might play it better (Bailey is superb) and just enjoy the music washing over you...and be thankful the recording is made just the way it is!
This just might be the best recording to read by ever made.
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The Bach Cello Suites seem endlessly available to the varied insights of great performers. The technical demands are enormous and the expressive ones even more so. The Suites can seem arch as if they spoke to us from a world beyond any ordinary life. They can seem dark and tortured as if they bared elements of soul we could never approach on our own. You owe it to yourself to sample many performances but do not miss this amazing interpretation of Zuill Bailey . It will lift you from your chair with wonder at Bach's profound gift, at the power of these works to move us after hundreds of years. However, Bailey's sheer and consistent enthusiasm and respect and skill in all of his performances, live and recorded, reminds me most of the experiences I had listening to Leonard Bernstein's lectures as a child. He convinced me that music made us more awake to life itself. Music was our greatst gift and deserved our loving attention. Bailey plays like these works were written yesterday and not like a celebrity cellist filling in his discography. He makes the suites matter with complete immediacy.He plays in service to you and to the composer. The Suites in his voice are full of joy.
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