In its Summer 1999 issue, International Piano Quarterly's Donald Manildi surveyed the discography of complete recordings of the Chopin Etudes, weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the most notable of the lot. Among all of these recordings, including legendary versions by Arrau, Pollini, Ashkenazy and others, Manildi declared the JUANA ZAYAS recording to be the best of the century. His assessment amply confirms what the New York Times' chief critic Harold Schonberg observed 22 years earlier after having heard her perform these virtuoso pieces at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall: "It was altogether an imposing feat, and it may be that we have with us a Chopinist to the manner born . . . She played with style, sensitivity, a big technique and an aristocratic flair for the mixture of romanticism and classicism embedded in the music."
While it would be impossible to hide the massive pianistic technique in her possession, Ms. Zayas chooses not display it for its own sake. A true musician-pianist, she has always subordinated technical accomplishment to the music itself, revealing its beauty and structure with a warm, rich tone and a superb understanding of its style and architecture. In his American Record Guide review of her 1996 recording of the Chopin Preludes, Schonberg likewise noted this proper balance and order: "She filters Chopin's notes through a fertile mind, with a very personal but never overdone kind of romanticism that looks back to the great pianists of a previous age."
Ms. Zayas has performed throughout Europe, South America, and the United States. In recent seasons she has opened the 1999 and 2000 Newport Music Festivals in Newport, Rhode Island, with all-Chopin programs and played all of Chopin's Etudes at the 2000 World Piano Pedagogy Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. She is regularly invited by the prestigious Serate Musicali to
give recitals at Verdi Hall in Milan and has performed with the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and the Zeeuws Orchestra in the in the Netherlands, the Orquesta Sinfónica de RadioTelevisión Española in Madrid, the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Lexington Philharmonic, the Rochester Philharmonic and the San Diego Symphony Orchestras. Her performances have been broadcast by National Public Radio and New York's WQXR.
Born in Havana on Christmas Day 1940, Juana Zayas's prodigious talent emerged at a very early age. At age seven, she gave her first solo recital, performing works by Beethoven, Händel, and Chopin. Four years later, Ms. Zayas graduated from the Peyrellade Conservatory in Havana with a performance of the Schumann Concerto. She left Cuba to attend the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris where she studied piano with Joseph Benvenuti and chamber music with René Le Roy, taking First Prize in both. During her years in Paris, she met and married her husband, a research chemist, and followed him first to England and then to New York continuing her studies with David Bar-Illan, Josef Raieff and Adele Marcus. The arrival of three sons in quick succession brought a temporary halt to her performing career. Fifteen years later, she emerged from her retirement to glowing reviews and a growing reputation among connoisseurs of piano playing all over the world.
Ms. Zayas's recordings have been released on compact disc by the Music & Arts, Albany, and ZMI labels. For more information about Juana Zayas, kindly visit her website at www.juanazayas.com.