Even when one stops to consider the vastness of the concerto repertoire, it's surprising to learn that one of the best known staples for cello and orchestra has never been heard on an Oklahoma City Philharmonic classics concert.
Franz Joseph Haydn's “Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in C Major” will also mark the Philharmonic debut of Zuill Bailey, a cellist who holds degrees from the Peabody Conservatory and the Juilliard School. Bailey is a professor of cello at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Composed in the early 1760s for Haydn's friend Joseph Franz Weigl, the C Major Concerto disappeared some time after its premiere and was presumed lost. Two centuries would pass before it resurfaced.
In the 1960s, musicologist Oldrich Pulkert discovered a copy of Haydn's score at the Prague National Museum. Cellist Milos Sadlo gave the 20th-century premiere of the newly found work with Charles Mackerras and the Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra on May 19, 1962.
“The Haydn C Major lights the building on fire with virtuosity and excitement,” Bailey said recently by phone from El Paso. “This concerto is a dash, an incredibly fun dash. It really feels like water that's about to boil the whole time. The last movement is when the bubbles come and the water finally boils. The excitement is self-generating.”
Like much music written during the classical period (the last half of the 18th century and the first two decades of the 19th), the Haydn C Major has a transparency that exposes both the solo line and the orchestral accompaniment.
“It's like champagne or crystal — beautiful and simple,” Bailey said. “The ear accepts it immediately. Whether you're a listener or a performer, it just feels right. I think of it as a festive celebration piece.”
Concert artists often speak of the time commitment required to prepare a piece for performance. Even a work such as the Haydn C Major, which has been a part of Bailey's repertoire for more than two decades, will need to be practiced and re-examined. Musical masterworks can reveal some previously undetected or overlooked mystery even after years of familiarity and performing.