Judith ZAIMONT (b. 1945)
Sonata (1999) [28.59]
Calendar Collection - Spring (1976)
Jupiter's Moons (2000) [19.23]
Calendar Collection - Summer
Wizards - Three magic masters (2001) [9.11]
Collection - Autumn (1976) [5.59]
Nocturne: La Fin de Siècle
A Calendar Set - 12 Virtuosic preludes (1974-75)
Cortege for Jack (2010) [3.44]
Jazz Waltz [2.31]
American City - Portrait of New York (1957/2010) [10.24]
Hitchin' - A
travellin' groove (2007) [3.33]
In my lunchbox (2003) [8.13]
Hesitation Rag (1998) [5.44]
Reflective Rag (1975) [3.40]
Serenade (2008) [5.38]
Elizabeth Moak (piano)
rec. 13-17 June 2011, Bailey Performing Arts Center, Kennesaw State
University, Kennesaw, Georgia (Disc 1), 21-24 March 2011, Snow Recital Hall,
University of Central Arkansas, Conway, Arkansas
MSR CLASSICS MS1366 [79.57 + 75.39]
Judith Zaimont began studying the piano at the age of five,
first with her mother and later at the Juilliard School's preparatory
division. She toured the USA in a piano team with her sister.
She also began composing at the age of 11. Though initially
she wrote for piano, there was a time when she relegated the
instrument to purely a supporting role, in ensembles or accompanying
the voice. When she did return to writing for the instrument,
it was for herself to play. Prior to the late 1990s, all but
one of her pieces was written for herself and not on commission.
This seems to give her music a coherence. At least the music
on this two CD set has a consistency. It is music that is essentially
serious of purpose, requiring a good, controlled technique.
The discs were recorded by Elizabeth Moak, an American pianist
who has taken consistent interest in contemporary music throughout
her career. She opens the disc with the Sonata, Zaimont's
most substantial work for the instrument to date, and a rare
one without a programmatic title. In three movements, each carries
an Italian title: Ricercara, Canto, Improva digitale.
Ricercara uses two differentiated themes in different
times - one slow and one quickly syncopated - to play with the
notion of sound passing in different time-streams. Canto,
as might be expected, is a singing movement, two scherzos only
serving as contrast. The final movement is something of a bravura
perpetuum mobile. Though Zaimont wrote the piece for
herself, it was actually premiered in 1999 by Bradford Gowen.
Calendar Collection is a set of preludes, written one
per month. They were a commission from publishers who wanted
a set of modest length pieces specifically geared to developing
pianists. Resembling etudes, each prelude uses a different specific
technical aspect, which is emphasised by the preludes having
preparatory exercises printed in the score. The result is a
group of charming character pieces. Moak plays nine of preludes
the in three groups of three.
In Jupiter's Moons, Zaimont depicts the five moons of
Jupiter with an opening prelude, The Moons Swim in Orbit,
whose very vagueness seems to invite contemplation of mystery.
The five moons following (Europa, Leda, Io, Ganymede, Calisto),
each with neatly differentiated characteristics, are linked
to the mythological characters. Wizards is in many ways
a similar type of group of character pieces each describing
a type of wizard.
The first disc finished with another charming character piece,
a nocturne, Nocturne: La Fin de Siècle.
The second disc opens with a complete performance of A Calendar
Set - 12 Virtuosic preludes. It was the success of this
set which led to the commissioning of the Calendar Collection.
A Calendar Set was Zaimont's first mature extended solo
work. She started the piece in Paris in 1972 without a design
to follow the year, but simply to write preludes to reflect
the summer weather. These are striking, short pieces written
for a pianist at the height of her powers, but not without humour
as certain of them are written as quodlibets: July includes
Sousa's Stars and Stripes for Ever and December is based
Cortege for Jack is an austere sarabande written in memory
of Jack Beeson, one of Zaimont's early teachers. Jazz Waltz
is a delightful piece, the middle movement of a suite.
Zaimont wrote American City - Portrait of New York at
the age of 12. She has made minor changes to the original five
movements and added a sixth. The results are remarkable. Hitchin'
a Travellin' Groove was commissioned for a book of pieces
for high school students; a fun piece which is in no sense written
down to the listener.
In My Lunch Box was written for rather younger students,
11 year olds who had been studying the piano for four years.
It is based around the charming idea of depicting the sort of
items children might have for lunch: tuna, celery, banana, mandarin
orange and dessert. At this point I did start to wonder whether
the recital was being a little completist and whether it might
not have been stronger if some of the occasional pieces had
been pruned: perhaps a surfeit of character pieces.
We next get a group of rags. Hesitation Rag is the most
recent, a substantial concert work, whereas Reflective Rag
and Judy's Rag are short, earlier, private pieces. The
disc finishes with the recent Serenade, an affectionate
tribute to big band music.
Elizabeth Moak is an excellent pianist who seems to have this
music at her finger tips. Zaimont's piano writing is tricky
however Moak not only puts it over well but also gives us the
idea that in the lighter pieces she's having fun.
Judith Zaimont's music is always well written and, even in the
lighter moments, serious about its purpose - even if that purpose
is describing the contents of a child's lunch box. Beautifully
textured piano writing mixes with whimsical and unusual ideas.
The really serious pieces respond to repeated listening. With
the large number of shorter pieces on the disc, this is a recital
to dip into.