Judith ZAIMONT (b. 1945)
Sonata (1999) [28.59]
Calendar Collection - Spring (1976) [4.03]
Jupiter's Moons (2000) [19.23]
Calendar Collection - Summer (1976) [5.25]
Wizards - Three magic masters (2001) [9.11]
Calendar Collection - Autumn (1976) [5.59]
Nocturne: La Fin de Siècle (1979) [6.55]
A Calendar Set - 12 Virtuosic preludes (1974-75) [28.54]
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]
Judy's Rag (1974) [3.19]
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 on carols. 

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.  

Robert Hugill

Beautifully textured piano writing mixes with whimsical and unusual ideas.