TROY — Ask any cellist and they’ll tell you that Bach and cello go together like bread and butter.
“Bach’s cello suites are a monument,” said cellist Zuill Bailey. “I perform a lot of Bach. It’s a personal journey.”
To underscore that, Bailey will give a recital on Friday at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Besides a few gems by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Chopin, he’ll perform Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 and, in an unprecedented departure for him, the Bach “Chaconne” arranged for cello quartet with local cellists Erica Pickhardt, Petia Kassarova, and Andre O’Neil.
The recital is also a prelude and fundraiser for the first annual Bach Cello Suites Workshop for adult amateur cellists, which will be held Aug. 2-8 at Russell Sage College.
Bailey, who is an international performer with numerous celebrated recordings, including one of the Bach cello suites (Telarc, 2010), is a professor of cello at the University of Texas at El Paso. He will be the workshop’s artistic director.
“We’re witnessing a birth here . . . to build up a community of like-minded cellophiles,” he said. “It will be wonderful with people magnetized by cello.”
Birth of an idea
The workshop is the inspiration of Mark Violette and his wife, Margaret Lanoue of Albany.
“I began playing cello at 55 with Erica Pickhardt,” Violette said. “She suggested three months of lessons and now seven years later I’m still taking lessons. The Bach cello suites are the Everest to play. I wanted to get my toe into them, to get a feel for them.”
He researched to find a workshop devoted to Bach, but there was nothing available for cellists at his level, he said. After a summer trip to Europe last year, where the couple visited famed cellist Pablo Casal’s home, an idea began to form.
Zuill Bailey, cello
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 30 Second Ave., Troy
HOW MUCH: $35, $25
MORE INFO: 273-0038, www.troymusichall.org
“Why don’t we do it?” Violette said.
By July, the couple had Russell Sage willing to house and feed participants, developed a website (www.bachcellosuitesworkshop.org), filed for non-profit status and by last fall got Bailey to agree to run things artistically.
“I was asked to magnetize the whole thing and make it a reality,” Bailey said. “No one has done this before. This is also different than a typical workshop as it’s not for string players who want to make a career, but for those where cello has changed their life.”
The rest of the cello faculty are: Robert Battey, a performer, nationally known teacher, and music critic; Phoebe Carrai, an Early Music expert, who has also recorded the Bach suites (Avie, 2006); and Melissa Kraut, a leading cello pedagogue.
Violette said the workshop can handle up to 40 cellists, preferably at least 30 years old “to share similar life experiences.” Fifteen people have already committed to coming, some from as far as California and British Columbia.
Cellos for rent will be available from a local music store. There are no auditions but applicants must indicate their level of play and what pieces they can play. Call 429-6613 for more information.
Getting this set up has been costly.
“I’ve gone into my retirement savings,” Violette said. “But creating something from nothing where there’s no blueprint is tricky.”
For now, he is anticipating Bailey’s recital. Pianist Navah Perlman, a frequent collaborator, will accompany.
“I’m itching to get Zuill’s cello, a 1693 Matteo Goffriller, into that hall. Its sound is like molten dark chocolate,” Violette said.