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Juana Zayas (Piano)

Born: December 25, 1940 - Havana, Cuba

The Cuban-born pianist, Juana Zayas, began to pick out folk tunes on the keyboard by ear when only 2 years old. By age 4, she was reading music and playing four-hand duets with her mother. At age 7, she entered the Peyrellade Conservatory of Music in Havana and gave her first solo recital, performing works by L.v. Beethoven, George Frideric Handel, and Frédéric Chopin. By age 11, she had earned a Gold Medal at the Peyrellade Conservatory, performing Robert Schumann's Piano Concerto. During her childhood, the performances of Jorge Bolet, Claudio Arrau, Friedrich Gulda and Arthur Rubinstein (who played every year in Zayas’ native Havana) were among her earliest and most vivid musical experiences; their styles and musical personalities have been an inspiration to her ever since. She was able to leave Cuba with the intervention of her last teacher there, who was a friend of Joseph Benvenuti, Professor of Piano at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris. He urged Zayas to audition, which she did successfully. She returned briefly to Cuba during the following summer, and then resumed her studies in Paris, never to return to her native land. At the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique, Juana Zayas studied piano with Joseph Benvenuti and chamber music with René Le Roy (1958-1961), taking First Prize in both. Following her graduation, she won a Medal with Distinction at the International Music Competition in Geneva, Switzerland. In Paris she met future husband Henri, a budding chemist who also happened to be a private flute student of René Le Roy. They married in Versailles and soon afterwards moved to Cambridge, England, where Henri continued his studies in chemistry. In 1966 they emigrated to the USA. Following their arrival in the USA, she studied with Adèle Marcus, David Bar-Illan, and Josef Raieff.

The arrival of three sons in quick succession necessitated a decrease in the number of her professional performances. During this time, however, Juana Zayas increased her repertoire, played a great deal of chamber music, and presented recitals locally, some of which were broadcast nationally by NPR. Fifteen years later, she re-emerged from this self- imposed hiatus from the frenetic music scene, and has returned to the concert stage to glowing reviews and welcoming audiences all over the world. In October, 1977, she gave her debut recital at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, performing W.A. Mozart' Sonata in F major, K. 332; Gaspard de la nuit by Ravel; and all of the 24 Frédéric Chopin Etudes, Op. 10 and Op. 25, earning her a rave review in the New York Times by Harold C. Schonberg. Ten years later, she again played all the Chopin Etudes at Alice Tully Hall under the auspices of the Chopin Foundation Council of Greater New York.

A Steinway artist, Juana Zayas has performed throughout Europe, South America and the USA. Known in particular for her exquisite and moving performances of F. Chopin, she opened the 1999 and 2000 Newport Music Festivals in Rhode Island, and played all of F. Chopin's Etudes at the 2000 World Piano Pedagogy Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, and at Piano Festival Northwest 2003 in Portland, Oregon. She is regularly invited by the prestigious Serate Musicali to give recitals at at the Sala Verdi of Milan’s Conservatory of Music and has performed with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and the Zeeuws Orchestra in the Netherlands, Orquesta Sinfónica de Radio Televisión Española in Madrid, Venezuela Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Symphony and Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, among others. Additional performances have taken place at Portland Festival Northwest; Verdi Hall, Milan; Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the French Embassy, Washington, DC; Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota, Florida; and other venues and series.

Wherever she has performed critics have invariably remarked on the depth of Juana Zayas' artistry. When, in 1977, she performed both sets of the Frédéric Chopin Etudes at her Alice Tully Hall debut, she so charmed the legendary New York critic Harold Schonberg that he would later declare, “Ms. Zayas turned out to be a Chopinist to the manner born.” Her 1983 release of these notoriously challenging pieces has entered the canon of 20th century recordings, driving - in Schonberg’s words - “Chopinophiles mad with ecstasy.” In 2010 her more recent release of these works earned her the coveted Diapason d’Or Award from the prestigious French Diapason music journal, hailing her as “Une Grande Pianiste”.

In 2011, to commemorate the 25th Markowski Foundation invited Juana Zayas to perform in Poland. In Lodz she played the Ravel Concerto in G major with the Arthur Rubinstein Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Marcin Niesiolowski. At the Sala Koncertowa Filharmonii in Wroclaw she impressed the audience with the sparkling brilliance of several Scarlatti sonatas, “the subtle painting of figures and moods” of R. Schumann’s Carnaval, and the unique “breadth and nobility of expression” in F. Chopin's Sonata in B minor.

Juana Zayas' performances have been broadcast by National Public Radio and New York's WQXR. Her recordings have been released on Music & Arts Programs of America, Albany Records and own label Zayas Masterworks, Inc (ZMI), the most recent being an all-Robert Schumann CD (including the Sonata Op. 22; Romance, Op 28, No. 2; Widmung by Franz Liszt/R. Schumann; and Fantasie, Op 17); an all-Schubert CD (Sonata, D. 960, and Four Impromptus, D. 899), both on the Music & Arts label; and two CD's on the Zayas Masterworks, Inc., label (works by Bach-Busoni, W.A. Mozart, L.v. Beethoven, F. Liszt, Debussy, and F. Chopin). She has recorded one of her successful recitals in her recent "Soirée Italienne" recording - a 2-CD set featuring numerous Italian-inspired works by J.S. Bach, Scarlatti, Clementi, F. Chopin, and Franz Liszt.

Juana Zayas and her husband reside in West Caldwell, New Jersey.


Source: Juana Zayas Website & Facebook profile; Eoica Classical Website; Photo 02: Shirley Singer
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (December 2017)

Juana Zayas: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Links to other Sites

Juana Zayas (Official Website)
Juana Zayas on Facebook
Juana Zayas (Eroica Classical)

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