Paul M. Somers, Classical New Jersey Society Journal, May 27,
revolution . . . and impish wit"
Juana Zayas (piano), Mozart Rondo in A minor, K. 511; Prokofieff:
Visions fugitives, op. 22; Chopin: Four Ballades opp. 23, 38,
47, and 52. Unitarian Society of Ridgewood
back to back performances of the four Chopin Ballades was the
monumental event of this recital. But the evening’s journey
to that tumultuous mix of nationalism and revolution was just
as engrossing: all twenty of Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives,
the epitome of 20th century miniatures, took their rounded course
preceded by Mozart’s prefiguring of Chopin in his fairly
late Rondo in A minor.
Least well known to
most listeners was this meditative Mozart work using a form
more often associated with rollicking finales. But here the
composer creates a long line and sets it in a highly chromatic
language which is a clear antecedent to Chopin’s instrumental
bel canto style. Even the 3/4 meter reminds one of Chopin yet
Ms. Zayas obviously
wanted to create a link to Chopin and made as much as she could
of the similarities. Her secure technique, never challenged
in Mozart, produced an appropriately romantic ethos.
Other aspects of pianism
which were to serve her well in Chopin first surfaced in the
Prokofiev performance: her deft way with third hand effect,
the wide range of her pianistic colors and touches, her flawlessly
dazzling virtuosity in the mad swaths of keyboard covering technical
passages. The grotesquerie found only in Prokofiev during this
recital revealed her ability to fall in line with his wit.
But finally it all
came down to the Ballades. Fiery passages were played with blistering
emotional speed which left the audience marveling after the
initial impact at the immaculate accuracy. Though on general
principle a few missed notes can be counted on, if there were
any on this occasion they went unnoticed. It was, indeed, Zayas’
intense accuracy of not only pitch but of attack and rhythm
which allowed the fire to become so intense. There was nothing
approximate or fudged by the pedal. When Ms. Zayas was calm,
as at the beginning of the final F minor Ballade, her intensity
bristled with kinetic energy. So when the piece finally erupted
in her hands it was a call to arms, an evocation of political
revolution with Chopin as general.
The artist was clearly
drained at the end of such a recital. But she graciously provided
three encores: some Bach/ Busoni and a Scarlatti sonata bon-bon.
* * *
Siepmann, BBC Music Magazine Direct:
Juana Zayas in Recital
Works by Bach/Busoni, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt and Debussy
many strengths of these performances is Zayas's finely honed sensitivity
to the effect of context upon content, her continuous awareness
of cause and effect. Not for her the carbon-copy approach to repeated
material that mars so many otherwise impressive interpretations.
This is truly organic playing, in which everything is interrelated
and a powerful sense of structure is conveyed without any sacrifice
of expressive detail.
her artful variation of phrasing and emphasis in the two Chopin
sonatas, where repetition is such a vital part of the drama. Some,
though, may criticize her tendency to desynchronize the hands.
This is no casual mannerism, however, but an acute response to
the immediate balance of melody, harmony and texture. Nor would
it be right to suggest that she is excessively self-conscious
are individual touches, as in all players of the highest caliber,
but what we have here is an admirable blend of intuitive response
and thoughtful fidelity to the text. Zayas is not a player who
blindly follows the score in an attitude of knee-jerk humility,
but rather one who has self-evidently pondered the meaning behind
of meticulously plotted articulation and dynamic contrasts as
an agent of movement in Mozart's K330 Sonata is a case in point,
as is her deft use of rhythmic profiling in Beethoven’s
Appassionata. One measure of quality in any performance is the
degree to which the act fits the fact. By that criterion alone
(and there are many others) this is a musician deserving of the
* * *
12, 2002 - Jan Narveson - University of Waterloo Gazette:
Juana Zayas is unknown in these parts, and in her concert for
the Chamber Music Society the question that immediately came to
mind is, why?
In the short
opening Romance in F# by Schumann, the warm, rich sounds she elicited
from the KWCMS Steinway were altogether extraordinary, as was
her evident feeling for this brief piece. Without pausing for
applause, she lit right into Schumann's Fantasy in C, a piece
that has been played quite frequently here over the past few years.
No one, however, has equaled, let alone exceeded, Ms. Zayas' account,
with its splendid clarity at all volumes, its masterful handling
of intricate passages, and above all, its conveying of a convincing
account of this score.
masterpiece of the evening was Schubert's great final sonata in
Bb, a work that has not been played as often hereabouts, but again,
never played so convincingly. This performance struck us as generally
magical. For one thing, it always managed to sing, be the song
happy or sad, its surrounding material complex or simple, fast
she has a wonderful way with rhythm, as in the scherzo that provides
such strong contrast to the deeply felt slow movement; this had
the needed spring and life, which is not a matter of velocity.
And she managed to make the finale seem neither anticlimactic
nor redundant. In a selection of encores too, by Chopin and Scarlatti,
she demonstrated that she is not just another pianist, let alone
some obscure unknown, but simply one of the greatest keyboard
artists of our day.
* * *
Chopin. . . . Zayas is a pianist who has much to teach the world.
She trusts Chopin implicitly and never roughs him up or slathers
on rouge; she lets his repetitions play out naturally and hypnotically.
Her sense of the right way to do things is so close to what Chopin
writes on the page that it can seem as if she isn't interpreting
the music at all. But that is a kind of interpretation in itself:
or rather, a kind of faith. Zayas's devotion and modesty are her
greatest strengths, and both came through with perfect clarity.
- Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post - Washington,
Juana Zayas makes triumphant return to Schenectady. On Sunday
at Proctor's Theater, she gave a deeply charismatic performance
of the Chopin F minor Piano Concerto, and an equally riveting
interpretation of the Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
. . . [In the Chopin] Zayas's tonal beauty and sincerity of approach
imbued every note with life and love. In the slow movement (Larghetto),
she conveyed the rapture and longing of the 17-year old Chopin's
unrequited passion for a fellow student. The delicious trills
and exquisitely molded ornamentation sent shivers down the spine.
. . . The second tour de force of the evening was the Rachmaninoff
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. . . . Zayas brought out the aesthetic
core of each and every variation with strength, decision and warmth.
At the same time, she was able to negotiate the pyrotechnical
difficulties with disarming ease and grace. . . . - Feroza
LaBonne, Special to the Times Union - Albany, NY
. . . This
was one of the most musically mature, technically powerful and
thoughtfully structured, programs to have been heard in the Lehigh
Valley in quite some time. - Philip A. Metzger, The Morning
Call - Allentown, PA
. . . This
recording of Chopin's piano music is one of the finest available,
and Juana Zayas's talent makes her eligible to be mentioned in
the same breath as Martha Argerich, as well as Jorge Bolet. .
. In short, even if you have other recordings of Chopin's Preludes,
you need to make room for this one. Juana Zayas is phenomenal.
- Raymond Tuttle, Classical Net Review
. . . pianist
Juana Zayas challenged the audience to rethink the way Chopin
is heard and experienced in our generation. . . . In her unassuming
way, Zayas's mastery attained the technical feats the recital
demanded, and let the music take center stage. . . . After three
standing ovations and clamoring for more, she finished the program
with a simple and beautiful rendition of the Waltz Opus 69 No.
1. - Vincent Schommer, The Times Herald-Record - Middletown,
. . . The
concert at Macalester College's Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center,
was not flashy and overdone, but truly an affair of virtuosity
and joy. Minneapolis Star Tribune - Minneapolis, MN
. . . it
was a great night of music-making. . . Zayas is a fine example
of what is called a natural virtuoso... She merely buries her
head in the music and, aided by deft fingers, reveals its richness.
- Los Angeles Times - Santa Paula, Ventura County, CA
. . . Zayas
plays Chopin with much the same commanding sweep that Petri invested
in the music of Liszt. Higher praise is hard to imagine. - Piano
& Keyboard review of the Chopin Etudes
however, simply must be heard by all who appreciate piano playing
- and Chopin playing - on the highest level. - Donald Manildi,
American Record Guide
. . . from
the first phrases a distinctive clarity coupled with a personal
tonal beauty caught the listener's attention. From thjen on, one
could only note in passing the pianist's technical brilliance
of articulation and ease of execution, as the sheer pleasure of
the music's content overwhelmed all else. - Sarasota Herald-Tribune
- Sarasota, FL
. . . a return
appearance by Juana Zayas was a real musical feast. . . Zayas
is a musician's musician - a pianist with both heart and technique,
which means she plays the dazzling romanticists like Liszt with
unstoppable virtuosity and Mozart with a classical kind of lyricism.
- The Dayton Daily News - Dayton, OH
Gina Bachauer was around to dazzle concert audiences has a woman
pianist brought such virtuosity to a program for the keyboard.
Not, that is, until Cuban-born Juana Zayas emerged on the scene.
. . [Zayas] was a vivid reminder of Bachauer, a musician with
enormous strength, very much a no-nonsense pianist. . . clean,
brilliant keyboard work, beautifully polished. - The Dayton
Daily News - Dayton, OH
unaffected in persona, she is a magic dynamo at her keyboard.
The familiar came through as something almost new. - The
Hour - Norwalk, CT
Juana Zayas play music from South America is like hearing Count
Basie's band play the blues. . . Nobody does it better. . . dazzling
display. . . Zayas played the entirety of both works [by Ginastera]
like they were hers and hers alone. - The Daily Gazette
- Schenectady, NY
is crisp, and she has enormous verve. Her disc of the Chopin Etudes
exhibits high craft. - David Dubal in The Art of the Piano,
Summit Books, New York
the hands and temperament for fiery, dramatic works and her fast,
clean fingerwork was particularly incisive in the sometimes agitated,
sometimes bantering first movement [of Shostakovich's Concerto
No. 1]. . . Zayas's cadenza playing later in the work was spectacular,
to say the least. - The Schenectady Gazette - Schenectady,
pianist Juana Zayas joined Bonavera, the St. Cecilia [Chamber
Orchestra] and trumpet soloist John Hudak for a fresh, satisfying
performance of Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1. . .
Zayas was entirely at home in the bravura piano writing, playing
with crisp accuracy and a tonal beauty even in some of the pounding
chordal sections. - The Times Union - Albany, NY
. . . one
of the highlights of this incredible, crowede period was pianist
Juana Zayas's debut appearance in Dayton Saturday. . . Zayas played
the sort of musically satisfying, intelligently planned recital
program. . . impeccably played. . . wonderfully romantic. . .
with sensitivity as well as virtuosity. - The Dayton Daily
News - Dayton, OH
. . . Her
brilliant grasp of the [Chopin First Piano] concerto and refined
sense of style. . . Her execution of a true Chopin rubato was
exemplary, as were her phrasing and articulation. - The
Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, CA
interpretation [of Chopin's First Piano Concerto] remained steady
and solid. There was never a sense of conflict or difficulty in
her facile execution of the concerto's intricate themes and subtle
rhythms. . . Ms. Zayas's fingers were flying in the final "Rondo"
movement but remained invisibly tied to a steady, regular pulse.
But the constraints of a mechanical beat did not restrain Ms.
Zayas from infusing her interpretation with tender nuance. - The
Journal News - Nyack, NY
is a very talented artist. Her playing is a consummate blend of
superb technique and sensitive expression. . . She has a firm
sense of the architecture of a piece. - New Canaan Advertiser
- New Canaan, CT
. . . it
seems as if she [Ms. Zayas] is better than ever. If anything,
there is, it seems to me, poetry and lyricism - even a little
restraint - in her playing [of Saint-SaŹns' Concerto No. 4]. .
. Zayas plays with power without ever assaulting the instrument
and she can deliver soft, muted passages with feathery gentleness.
- The Schenectady Gazette - Schenectady, NY
two sets of Etudes, Op. 10 and Op. 25] Her style is primarily
virtuosic, but with a restraint that is well suited to the music
of Chopin. . . a thinking person's Chopin. . . an unhesitating
"A," as befits this abundant Chopin evening. - The Journal-News
- Nyack, NY
is a musician of decidedly special communicative power. . . Ms.
Zayas made of the set [of Chopin's Preludes] a totally and uniformly
absorbing half-hour, setting every one of these miniatures out
in immensely poetic style, with abundant warmth, strength and
security. . . an artist worth traveling many miles to experience.
- The Times Herald Record - Middletown, NY
played with style, sensitivity, a big technique, and an aristocratic
flair for the mixture of romanticism and classicism embedded in
the music. - Harold C. Schonberg, The New York Times
gave an exceedingly impressive performance of the complete etudes.
. . She played with color, with technique to burn, with a good
deal of individuality. . . like Joseph Lehvinne or Ignaz Friedman,
she never broke the line by over-interpretation. . . It was altogether
an imposing feat, and it may be that we have with us a Chopin
pianist to the manner born." - Harold C. Schonberg, The
New York Times