The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts November 18, 2005

Zuk Played Extended Guest Piano Recital

I went to Warner Concert Hall last Friday to listen to Eva Maria Zuk’s guest recital. She presented a program that was vast. And huge. And long. The performance included Bach’s Toccata in D major, Schubert’s Sonata in A major, Chopin’s Fantasy, Op. 49, Chopin’s 4 Mazurkas, Op. 17 and Rachmaninoff’s Sonata No. 2, Op. 36.

“I tried to show four different styles and sounds on the piano, starting with Bach and ending with Rachmaninoff,” said Zuk. “I was fascinated by the difficulties that will occur with picking such a program. It covers many styles and requires a large variety of colors, shadings — even the approach to the keys is constantly changing. I just like challenges.”

Zuk began with energy and passion. She played her Bach with a prominent, deep touché. Pure professionalism came through her rich, sonorous sound and her tender care for each note. The piano sounded so much like a harpsichord at times, yet not at all at others. There was brilliance and vivid light in the color. It was an out of the ordinary combination.

Then Schubert followed, as pure cantabile dye splashed all over the hall. Zuk’s playing was virtuosic and came with great ease. Noble and dignified, the sonata did not lack elements of freedom and occasional improvisational moments. It sounded as if Zuk were bending the boundaries of the measures almost until the breaking point, but she sustained the flowing sense and straightforwardness until the end.

In her pizzicatos in the bass line, I heard a whole philosophy coming through, and, sometimes, silent sadness found its way through the texture. There was a calling in her second movement, everything for the sake of pure musicality in the third and incredibly gorgeous simplicity and happiness in the fourth.

Another great aspect to Zuk’s playing was the great taste and musical culture of everything she performed.

With the first octaves of Chopin’s Fantasy, I knew that I would witness great things. Broad and singing lines exchanged places with long, passionate melodies.

Energetic runs and virtuosic passages were followed by the tranquility of the middle section, which opened the doors to the state of dreamy reminiscence of a happier life. I heard a slight notion of a solemn prayer before the final waves of the ultimate uprising before the tragic end. Zuk played her heart out.

The Mazurkas somehow tried to erase the memory of the heartbreak with their traditionalistic, cheerful dance-like character. There were charming rhythmic changes, clever nationalistic harmonies mixed with the classical Viennese tradition, coquettish chromatisms and dreamy fragments.

To finish with Rachmaninoff is a brave thing to do, especially when a pianist has already performed for almost two hours. Zuk did not give the slightest hint of tiredness, though. The first movement started with a storm — a massive, rolling sound, highlighted with extreme virtuosity.

Zuk covered a large range of the keyboard with unmatched effortlessness.

As contrast, her longing, cantabile melodies were clear and transparent, reminding me of the high winds in the orchestra.

Even in the minor key, when certain grief approached, the music did not lose its dignity. The performance was exceptionally temperamental.

“I met many challenges, particularly in the two sonatas,” said Zuk. “Schubert is very complex, with its delicate phrasing, and it has many repeats. It’s difficult to put all those repetitions together and not to lose the interest of the audience. As for Rachmaninoff, the simple difficulty of the structure, the great virtuosity that it requires are really hard to achieve, along with the explosion of passion that stretches from the beginning to the end.”

Zuk’s performance was fiery and vigorous; it ruled the imagination of the audience. Two encores proved once more that talent never tires of creating music.


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