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Bailey brings passion for playing to Westmoreland symphony show

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cellist Zuill Bailey photo credit: Lisa Marie Mazzucco

Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra

With: cellist Zuill Bailey

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $10-$39; student rush tickets, $5

Where: Palace Theatre, Greensburg

Details: 724-837-1850 or www.westmorelandsymphony.org

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Cellist Zuill Bailey says following advice he received in his youth has turned him into “the luckiest guy in the planet.”

When he was moving into his teens, he says, he was told if he could find something he truly loved and make a career out of it, he would “never work a day in his life.” Bailey decided to concentrate on playing cello.

“Now, I'm performing as much as I like and possibly can, I'm working at festivals, and I'm teaching and watching it all come back to me,” he says.

Bailey, 40, has added to his schedule a visit Saturday with the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra when he plays the demanding and passionate Cello Concerto No. 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich.

The cellist is leading a busy life as a solo performing and recording artist. Recently released is his recording of Antonin Dvorak's well-known cello concerto. He will be following that recording in 2013 with one of Edward Elgar's concerto.

Bailey, who started playing cello when he was 4, is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. He has performed with orchestras in many cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto and Linz, Austria.

Besides his solo career, he teaches at the University of Texas at El Paso, is director of the autumn classics series of the Sitka Summer Music Festival in Alaska and will become director of the Northwest Bach Festival in Washington in 2014.

“I've been shuttling around quite a bit,” he says.

The energy that he uses in that shuttling shows up in his playing as well. The Shostakovich work makes such demands, he says, as it opens with a passionate first movement that cannot be approached with any emotional coldness.

But, he says, the most challenging part of the work is a third movement that begins as a long cadenza, before moving into a finale with the orchestra.

“So, after you have put yourself totally into it,” he says of that movement, “then there's more.”

He says he likes the work a great deal and keeps it among the 15 or so works he is prepared to play as a soloist.

But he always is aware of its demands. He saw cello legend Mstislav Rostropovich perform the work and says the Russian “held his bow like a baseball bat” to keep control of it through the challenging third movement.

Symphony artistic director Daniel Meyer says he brought in Bailey to do this work because it has the kind of power he wants Westmoreland audiences to hear.

“You have to have a definite passion to play this,” he says.

He and Bailey are familiar with each other's look at the work, having performed it together about seven years ago in Santa Barbara, Calif.

That familiarity could be a benefit, he says. “But who knows, in the time since, we might have gone entirely different ways.”

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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