The last time Zuill Bailey played with the Nashville Symphony, he gave a Grammy-winning performance. It’s an experience the virtuoso cellist describes as “capturing lightning in a bottle.”
Earlier this year, Bailey took home the award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for his world premiere of Tales of Hemingway, a cello concerto from American composer Michael Daugherty inspired by the famous writer Ernest Hemingway. A commission from the Nashville Symphony (and a consortium including the Asheville and Detroit Symphonies), the recorded performance also garnered awards for Best Classical Compendium and Best Classical Contemporary Composition.
When Bailey got the call about the Grammy nominations, he spent time reflecting on the April 2015 performance. “It was indescribable,” he says of the experience, noting all the pieces that came together to perfectly to create an exquisite musical moment: the fantastic musicians, the gorgeous hall, Daugherty, who was there to help craft the piece “until the eleventh hour,” and Bailey’s friend and conductor Giancarlo Guerrero.
When asked what he enjoys most about collaborating with the Nashville Symphony, Bailey lets out a sigh, as if not knowing where to begin. The list is long, but at the top is his friendship with Guerrero, who he describes as “meticulous, inspiring, and such a human being,” a reference to Guerrero’s down-to-earth warmth.
On June 1-3, Bailey will join Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony again, this time for a performance of Antonin Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B Minor. Bailey calls it “possibly the greatest concerto ever written,” explaining that before Dvořák, composers often thinned out the orchestral accompaniment to avoid burying the cello. Dvořák was the first to successfully weave the instrument into a fuller, symphonic sound. “As a cellist,” Bailey says, “I’m so lucky to have that piece.”
The program, which is the finale to the Nashville Symphony's 2016/2017 Classical Series season, also includes Copland's Third, featuring the famous Fanfare for the Common Man.
It’s Bailey’s hope that Tales of Hemingway will live on like the Dvořák concerto has. He sees performing the latter with the Nashville Symphony as the perfect reunion after the triumph of the Daugherty world premiere and multiple Grammy wins: “[With the Daugherty] we went to battle, and we became a family,” Bailey says, “and now we get to celebrate.”