Juana Zayas

Chopin: Complete Études

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Even though Frédéric Chopin's etudes, Opp. 10 and 25, and the Trois nouvelles études are study pieces for pianists of considerable acumen, they have become enormously popular for their tunefulness, dazzling brilliance, and striking moods, and are regarded by connoisseurs as character pieces of the highest order. This double-disc package of two complete performances by Cuban pianist Juana Zayas is a fascinating display of an artist's growth with the etudes, and comparing her energetic performances of 1983 with her more reflective readings of 2005 can absorb a listener for many sittings. Naturally, there are more complex qualities in these performances than can be summed up in such a broad generalization, and Zayas' playing is varied enough in expression and execution to almost make the point moot. However, if the emphasis in the 1983 recording was to demonstrate Zayas' technical command of the keyboard, and the point of the 2005 performance is to show a more emotive or picturesque side of the music, then the simplified description at least helps identify her different approaches in playing Chopin in these sessions. There are also two major differences in sound quality, whereby the 1983 offers a bright and hard-edged sound and the 2005 a richer, rounder piano tone. In any event, there is no need to choose between either of Zayas' performances because this twofer allows the listener to experience two worthy albums that differ mostly in interpretation, not in quality. Zayas offers exceptional performances both times, so whether one disc is preferred over the other is due more to subjective appreciation than to objective analysis.

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