ICS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW!!!

CONVERSATION WITH ZUILL BAILEY

by Tim Janof

Zuill Bailey is an engaging, multi-faceted American artist; a powerful performer who dazzles audiences with his technical and artistic command of the cello. His performances encompass concerts with orchestra, recitals and chamber music in the U.S. and abroad.

The 2002/03 season begins with Mr. Bailey performing with the Chicago Symphony and Itzhak Perlman conducting in the opening weekend of the Ravinia Festival. Other concerto appearances include performances with the National Orchestra de Cuba, Phoenix, South Carolina, El Paso, Illinois, Lexington, Knoxville, and San Luis Obispo Symphonies. Bailey also continues his partnership with pianist Awadagin Pratt in a series of Duo recitals in addition to his recitals in Texas, Nevada, Washington DC, Arizona, Idaho, and Arkansas. An avid chamber musician, Bailey will also be presenting concerts in North Carolina, California, and leading the El Paso Pro Musica Chamber Festival as "Artistic Director" in Texas. Other activities include the revisiting of his role as a murderous cellist in new segments being filmed for HBO's "OZ."

The 2001/02 season began with Mr. Bailey's playing the Beethoven Triple Concerto with the Dallas Symphony as well as chamber music concerts at the Bravo! Colorado Vail Valley Music Festival. Last fall he premiered a work by Lowell Lieberman commissioned for the Perlman/Nikkanen/Bailey trio in concerts and residencies at the Lied Centers in Kansas and Nebraska; and throughout the season he played an extensive recital tour of the U.S., including duo recitals with Awadagin Pratt at the Des Moines Civic Center, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland in College Park. His orchestral engagements included performances of Schumann's Cello Concerto, Popper's Hungarian Rhapsody, Beethoven's Triple Concerto, Brahms' Double Concerto, Dvorak's Cello Concerto and Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations with symphonies in South Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Westchester County, Maryland, New Hampshire and Virginia. In addition, Mr. Bailey was appointed as Artistic Director of El Paso Pro-Musica in Texas.

Mr. Bailey led off last season when he stepped in to play Haydn's Cello Concerto in C Major at Ravinia for an indisposed Heinrich Schiff, and subsequently was invited to play a recital on Ravinia's Rising Stars Series. He also made his Carnegie Hall solo debut giving the U.S. premiere of the Theodorakis "Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra." In addition, he presented recitals at the Manchester International Cello Festival in England, and a performance for national broadcast on NHK-TV in Japan. With his trio partners; Navah Perlman (piano) and Kurt Nikkanen (violin), he was a guest artist at the Lied Center in Nebraska, with the Lexington Philharmonic and with the New York Chamber Symphony conducted by Itzhak Perlman at Lincoln Center performing Beethoven's Triple Concerto. Mr. Bailey also toured the U.S. in recital and in orchestral engagements, including concerts with the Arkansas, Washington Chamber, Napa Valley and New Hampshire Symphonies.

Zuill Bailey is a well-known guest at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Kravis Center in Palm Beach and Wolf Trap in Virginia, where he has appeared in concert with his trio. He has also been featured in the summer festivals of Chautauqua (Victor Herbert No. 2), San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara's Musical Academy of the West, Rutgers, the Music Festival of the Hamptons in Easthampton with Lukas Foss, in a series of Parisian music at the Museum of Modern Art's SummerGarden Festival in New York City, and at the Appalachian and Daytona Festivals.

Mr. Bailey enjoys collaborating on projects which encompass several areas of the entertainment industry. At Lincoln Center he played selections from the Bach Cello Suites with dancers choreographed by Igal Perry. On television, Mr. Bailey has been featured on Good Day, L.A. in California and WAVY in Virginia, and has recorded selections on two soundtracks for the NBC drama series Homicide: Life on the Street, which led to his on-screen appearance in several episodes of the HBO drama series, OZ.

A native of Virginia, Mr. Bailey developed his passion for the cello at the age of four and gave his concerto debut at thirteen with the Prince William Symphony Orchestra. A graduate of the Peabody Conservatory and The Juilliard School, Mr. Bailey's principal teachers have included Loran Stephenson, Stephen Kates and Joel Krosnick, cellist of the Juilliard String Quartet. Mr. Bailey plays a 1693 Matteo Goffriller formerly owned by Mischa Schneider of the Budapest String Quartet.

TJ: Your career really seems to be taking off. How did it all start?

ZB: I come from a family of musicians. My father has his doctorate in music and education, my mother (a pianist) received her Masters with Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Conservatory, and my sister (2 years older) is a violinist. My parents wanted to start me on an instrument when I was four, but were advised not to choose the violin, since competition between my sister and me could ruin our experiences. So they started taking me to symphony concerts in the Washington, D.C. area, in order to help me discover what instrument I would like to play. It was at these concerts that I fell in love with the cello.

I was taught by a Suzuki teacher for about 3 years, and then was switched to Loran Stephenson, a cellist in the National Symphony, with whom I studied through the end of high school. Living in Northern Virginia (the Washington D.C. area), there were many performance opportunities, which included competitions and master classes. I participated regularly in the National Symphony's Fellowship Program, which gave me the opportunity to play for most of the soloists that Rostropovich (who conducted the Symphony) brought. These included lessons with Zukerman, Harrell, Starker and Bylsma.

The funny thing, in hindsight, is that I remember assuming that every community had someone like Rostropovich. I did realize that he was important, but I had no idea how important, nor what he represented. I'm still amazed to think how fortunate I was to have grown up in such close proximity to a man who is one of the greatest cellists ever. For instance, I heard him play ten concertos at his 60th birthday celebration, attended his many recitals, and even had the opportunity to play for him.

At age 10 or so, I started venturing out of my state, and attended summer camps and festivals. These included Meadowmount, Interlochen, ENCORE, and the Music Academy of the West. It was in these places that I was able compare myself with other cellists my age. From this, I gained new energy and really began to focus and put much more work into practicing to see where music might take me. I began seizing every opportunity to perform. I entered numerous competitions just to get the opportunity to play. This is where I gained so much of my early experience performing with orchestras.

When I was 16 years old, I was taken to the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Maryland, to meet Stephen Kates. Shortly thereafter, I started studying with both Kates and Loran Stephenson. For a couple of years, I was having two lessons a week, one with each teacher, in addition to playing in the frequent classes at the Kennedy Center.

TJ: Did your teachers know about each other?

ZB: Yes, they did. I was extremely fortunate in that my teachers encouraged my exploring different technical and musical ideas. To keep the process clean, however, I made sure that I prepared different repertoire for each of them.

After high school, I went to Peabody for my undergraduate work. I had auditioned for many other schools, but having already established such a wonderful rapport and working relationship with Stephen Kates, I decided to continue my studies with him. During my freshman year at Peabody, I won the National Federation of Music Clubs "Young Artists" competition. This prize created tremendous opportunities for me, for it not only had a wonderful cash award, it gave me 30-40 recital and concerto concerts in the U.S. over the next two years. I also did well in a couple of other competitions, which offered similar scenarios throughout Maryland and other states.

Upon graduation, I headed for New York City to Juilliard to study with Joel Krosnick (Juilliard String Quartet) for my Masters Degree. In New York things really became very focused and my life as a professional musician began. Along with rather intense study with Krosnick, the concerts continued to build to where I needed the help of a manager. I was fortunate to become associated with Colbert Artists Management, an organization of truly amazing people, who are genuinely concerned with artistic balance, growth, and long term development. As a result, I am performing a wide variety of recitals, concerto appearances, and chamber music all over the country, and am currently on an exciting trajectory of musical growth and experience.

TJ: What's it like to be on the same roster as Janos Starker, one of history's greatest cellists?

ZB: It is an incredible honor, of course. I think any true cello connoisseur has to realize what he represents and what lofty standards he has set. This association has also given me the opportunity to spend time with the man as well as play for him periodically. Fortunately for me, our careers don't overlap.

TJ: Let's go back and discuss your various teachers. What did Loran Stephenson have you work on?

ZB: I have to say that Loran Stephenson gave me all of the fundamentals. It is hard to describe how much of a perfectionist he was with me. Or at least it seemed that way. Whatever I did, he always raised the bar just out of my reach. This always created a sense of high standards. We spent a considerable amount of time on Sevcik, Popper etudes, and scales. However, he didn't seem to want to work on these just to do so. Instead, he would assign studies that reinforced the technical skills needed in the music we were working on at the time. Like a "cello doctor," he would prescribe the appropriate etude to mend a specific technical ailment.

There was always a clear connection between our technical studies and the music we were playing, so it was easy to get excited about each lesson. Everything made so much sense. I remember, for instance, having a little trouble with the octaves in the Saint Saens Concerto No. 1, so I found myself being assigned Popper Etude #13. Needless to say, after the intense work we did on that study, the Saint Saens passage was never an issue again.

It is really interesting to think back on this time. I remember going into lessons thinking I had properly prepared and polished my assignment. Invariably I would find myself leaving having to work on the same material again. Of course, I was infuriated when he re-assigned the works, but his high standards trained my ear and mind to strive for only the best. We were a perfect match, since I constantly wanted to prove to him what I was capable of doing, so I put in an incredible amount of practice time. Thanks to him, I was well prepared for my continued studies with Stephen Kates.

TJ: What was Stephen Kates like as a teacher?

ZB: He is one of the most naturally talented cellists I have ever met. He can seemingly do anything at any time with color, bowing, style, and on any string. I found myself awestruck at every lesson. His greatest ability was that he could demonstrate what could be done cellistically. This ability is rare, and inspired me to learn how to be the utmost performer. I'll never forget playing the Dvorak Concerto for him, when he said, "That sounds good. I realize you're performing this in three weeks, but I want you to change twenty things by next week. I'm not talking about simple things. Instead maybe don't use open strings, or go for the use of an entirely different string for a passage. Maybe re-invent a fingering, or a kind of slide." I remember asking myself, "Why in the world would I want to change for the sake of change, especially so close to a performance?" I had the piece all ready for my concert and he wanted to shake things up at the last minute! What I didn't realize was that he was instilling the importance of not becoming handcuffed to a certain approach. Two weeks later, I went back to my old interpretation, but I felt incredibly freer and much more expressive. He also opened my eyes to the many possibilities of how a piece could be played. He taught me that there were no limits with regard to the possibilities to cello playing and performance. Since graduation, he and I have continued to communicate, and he remains a huge influence on me to this day.

TJ: How did you practice so that you would perfect the things you were playing?

Everyone has their own take on this, but I found myself trying to make a passage or work far more difficult so as to have the original seem easy. At quite an early age I made the metronome my best friend. With this I would choose a particular section and play it at a very slow tempo, moving it up one click at a time. I would set the standard at having to do it five times in a row before I would move it up a notch. I would also determine what tempo would be performance pace and then set the goal about 10 clicks faster than that, so "in tempo" would feel moderate. When I recently saw the movie The Red Violin I had very strange flashbacks during the scene where the teacher and the young boy drilled that passage with a metronome. It is definitely a kind of torture if I think about it. I also tried to change rhythms, bowings, fingerings, and string positioning in order to have a more complete understanding of why I was making the choices I made.

Loran Stephenson and I had a little pact about choices in the technique of playing. He would always tell me that I could use any configuration (fingerings, bowings, etc.) I wanted as long as I didn't miss. If I did miss, there was no discussion; I had to use his fingerings or bowings. This really fired my determination to find the best possible solution for a particular problem and not just rely upon what is marked in the music.

TJ: Did you also record yourself in order to help perfect your playing?

ZB: Occasionally, but I found it more valuable to listen to tapes of actual performances. I find it absolute torture to sit down and listen to myself; it's kind of like hearing one's voice on the answering machine. I've learned that if I can sit through one or two hearings of the tape, I can finally become a bit more reasonable in my observations. At that point, I will ask myself, "Is this really how I want to sound? Am I doing what I thought I was doing on stage?" If not, I'll go back and rethink all of my choices in my next practice session.

TJ: Are there things you learn onstage that you don't learn in the practice room?

ZB: I used to believe that I would get to the point where I would feel no nerves in a concert situation the more I performed. What I have realized is that the adrenaline and "nerves" never really go away. I've just learned to recognize them and control the way my body and mind work under pressure. For instance, on stage, (due to the adrenaline) everything tends to move faster than the practiced tempo. Knowing this, I actually find myself exaggerating shifts as well as musical gestures to prevent them from sounding rushed in performance. One must also recognize that there are an incredible amount of distractions in the concert setting, so the simpler everything can be (i.e. fingerings and bowings), the more successful the performance is likely to turn out.

TJ: What did Joel Krosnick emphasize with you?

ZB: I couldn't have chosen a better time to work with Joel Krosnick. He is the ultimate polisher and guide for a life in music. We would spend hours and hours talking and analyzing what makes music work and why certain choices are made. This spanned everything from the balance one must have in one's personal life to musical decisions.

The things he seemed to always question with me were the choices I made in my presentation of a piece. This entailed everything from what the composer wanted, to what kind of technical decision I was implementing. For instance, I remember one week that really made a huge impression on me. I was playing the Schubert "Arpeggione" Sonata for him, and I used a flashy staccato bowing (see example 1). After this section he stopped me and said "I really appreciate your being able to do that, but it sounds like you're doing staccato. If you're doing it because musically this is the effect you're trying to get then go ahead and do it, but if you are just doing it to showcase that technique, save it for an encore like Hora Staccato." His remarks were not only insightful, but gave me the freedom to make the decision for myself. One of the great things about him is his ability to discuss music so intelligently, and with such an open mind. This is probably the result of his many years of being in a string quartet, where one discusses musical details constantly. He introduced me to a completely different dimension in the art of music making, one of long-term growth and fulfillment.


Example 1 - Schubert Arpeggione Sonata

Another amazing lesson in growth and development was a time when I wanted to enter Juilliard's concerto competition with the Prokofiev Symphony Concerto. I had recently performed it, so I felt it would be a good piece to enter. He strongly felt it was a bad idea, however, because I was working with him on music that required an entirely different approach to sound. We were working on singing music like the Boccherini A major, Haydn D Major, and Schubert. These works have to sound easy even though they are technically difficult. He worried that we would regress if I performed a piece that required a different type of technique, and one with which I had developed old habits. He then suggested that I enter with the Ibert Concerto instead. Begrudgingly, I took his advice. In hindsight, he was completely right. This truly taught me about patience and not to be always looking for the instant thrill, to stay the course.

Krosnick is one of the kindest, most remarkably supportive people I've ever met, and to be able to share information and ideas as we did week in and week out was a golden opportunity in my life that I will never forget. He encouraged me to develop my own ideas and to have confidence in them, which ultimately allowed my personal interpretations to emerge. This kind of nurturing is invaluable to a young player.

TJ: You also collect recordings. Are there certain artists' recordings that you are particularly drawn to in your collection?

ZB: I bought my first CD player when they initially came out, around 1985. Subsequently I bought cello recordings as they were released on CD. I had no idea at the time that classical recordings came and went, and in many cases were in limited quantity. There is nowhere near as much variety available now as there was at the time when all the record companies were first re-releasing their catalogs on CD. There are so many wonderful cello recordings that one just can't buy today or are terribly difficult to find. This is particularly true of Lynn Harrell's recordings. It is astonishing to me that an artist of his magnificence is not readily available on disc. Other cellists whom I enjoy are Gendron, Starker, Fournier, Perenyi, Janigro, Rostropovich, Shafran, Bylsma, Schiff, Piatigorsky, Casals I guess I'm pretty much naming them all. I just love the fact that they are all so different.

What I prefer from one day to the next really depends on the mood I'm in, so this is why I have such a large collection. I really appreciate them all. These are some of my favorites recordings -- I never tire of them:


Harrell:

Schumann Concerto "LIVE" with Bavarian Radio and Maazel -- ARTISTS "live"
Rosza Concerto -- TELARC
Saint Saens Concerto No. 2 -- LONDON/DECCA
Bloch Schelomo -- LONDON/DECCA
CPE Bach Concerto with Zukerman conducting English Chamber -- EMI
Herbert Concerto No. 1 -- LONDON/DECCA
Tchaikovksy Piano Trio -- EMI

Rostropovich:

Prokofiev Symphonie Concertante/Myaskovksy Concerto, Sargent cond. -- EMI
Some of his "LIVE" recordings like "The Budapest Recital" MUSIC AND ARTS

Feuermann:

Saint Saens Concerto No. 1 with NY Phil. "live" with Bach as encore.
Dvorak Concerto "live" with Chicago Symphony.
Dohnanyi Serenade/Mozart Divertimento -- BIDDULPH

Starker:

Road to Cello Playing -- PARNASSUS
Italian Sonatas -- MERCURY
Kodaly Sonata (of course) -- DELOS
Concerto Collection with Santa Fe Orch. -- DELOS

Bylsma:

Servais Souveniers and Caprices -- HARMONIA MUNDI

Janigro:

Cello Favorites (collection of short pieces) -- VANGUARD CLASSICS

Rose:

Beethoven Triple Concerto with NYP/Walter/Corigliano/Hendl -- SONY
Schumann Concerto with NYP and Bernstein -- SONY

Ma:

Beethoven Triple Concerto "LIVE" with Berlin. Barenboim and Perlman. -- EMI

Piatigorsky:

Schelomo "LIVE" with NY Phil. and Rodzinsky. -- ASDISC

Casals:

Acoustic recordings vol. I/II/III BIDDULPH


TJ: Are there any cellists of the early 20th Century that particularly influenced you?

ZB: Without a doubt I'd have to say Emanuel Feuermann. It is incredible to me that a man who was on this earth for such a short period of time continues to influence so many. Thank goodness that he recorded so much and that many of his "live" concerts are floating around to be heard these days. Aside from his recordings, his biography, and watching the film footage, I have also had much of his teaching and views of cello playing brought to my attention through Mosa Havivi, who was Feuermann's assistant in Berlin, and is now over 90 years old. I met Mosa in the early 1990's in his violin shop on 57th street. Over the years in New York City, I have spent many afternoons talking, playing and discussing the cello with Havivi. He has very, very strong opinions about everything, and much is based on what separates Feuermann from others. We've mostly focused on the bow arm and the use of the upper half of the stick. Havivi suggested wonderful exercises in this area. One of them is a hooked bowing for the Prelude of the Fourth Bach Suite. (see Example 2) Needless to say, this kind of work and observation continues to have a lasting impact on my approach to the cello.


Example 2 - Bach E-Flat Prelude

TJ: Tell us about you cello?

ZB: My cello is the ex "Mischa Schneider" Goffriller made in 1693. This is the one Schneider had for many of his years in the Budapest String Quartet, I believe from about 1940-1967. It is an incredible instrument and extremely rare, because it is one of only two cellos by this maker to have a rosette carved on the top. With the help of a generous sponsor, I was able to acquire it in 1997.

TJ: You mentioned playing Bach. Do you lean towards a more Romantic approach, or do you strive for a more Baroque style.

ZB: Bach is so personal. I really don't know where my approach lies, for it changes from day to day. I can say that when I learned these pieces, I tried not to be tied down to a particular bowing or set of decisions. With this approach, I find that each piece can sound a bit more improvised and free. One thing that is of major concern to me is that there be a beautiful full sound and so that usually means using an effective vibrato. The cello's sound is so complete, and to have music that lets the instrument ring is a thrill. Knowing that the cello was viewed as a church bass at the time of the Suites, I especially enjoy playing the pedal tones in the works. This allows for the fullness and resonance that only a cello has. Getting back to your question, I would say that my approach is a highly expressive Baroque style.

TJ: You are now the Artistic Director of the El Paso Pro Musica. Tell us about this organization and how you became involved.

ZB: My wife is an artist. She and I had lived in New York City for seven years when she was awarded an art residency in Texas, so we decided to take a year's break from the city. It was upon arriving and getting settled last summer that the Pro Musica opportunity arose. El Paso Pro-Musica was in the process of searching for an artistic director at the time, and due to a couple of lucky happenstances, I not only learned about the opening, but subsequently was offered the position. It was surprising for me to realize that El Paso and the surrounding region of Juarez, Mexico, encompass almost 3 million people. In this area, people are not only hungry for culture, but heavily support the endeavors to promote it. Pro-Musica is the only classical chamber and recital series in this area, and it also presents a winter festival. My duties as Artistic Director are to create the programs and promote the music and musicians that will inspire the community. My involvement with El Paso Pro Musica fulfills another of my life's dreams. Combined with my concert schedule, it allows for a wonderful balance of artistic growth and productivity within a broad community.

3/8/02


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