7 to 8 pm ET
Mariel Mayz. (Image courtesy of the artist)
Mariel Mayz: Cuban Sketches for Piano
The pianist launches her latest album, dedicated to Leo Brouwer's piano music.
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New York-based pianist and composer Mariel Mayz makes her Music of the Americas debut with the launch of her latest release on Zoho Music, Cuban Sketches for Piano, featuring premiere recordings of piano music by Cuban composer superstar Leo Brouwer.
About the performer
New York native Mariel Mayz is a sought-after composer, pianist, educator, and administrator. Mayz's original works have been described as inventive, colorful, compelling, and well-crafted. Her compositions explore the intersectionality of musical styles and often draw inspiration from her initial musical training as a virtuoso pianist. As a composer, Mariel’s first large-scale work for the stage—a one-act, chamber opera—was commissioned by American Opera Projects and the Hunter Opera Theater. The work was premiered by the Hunter Opera Theater singers and Talia Ensemble during the 2018 New York Opera Fest, conducted by David Fulmer with projections by Monica Duncan. Mayz’s most recent works include commissions by two-time Latin Grammy nominee João Luiz, works for the Higher Ground Festival, guitarist Nora Spielman, violist Elise Frawley, and Porto Pianofest— for their 2019 New Music Series and 2020 Digital Season. The 2021 season included two commissioned works for “The Illustrated Pianist,” celebrating the centennial of American author Ray Bradbury, a concert at the Reitoria da Universidade do Porto with live visual artwork, and a new work for piano and orchestra. She is currently working on the publishing and recording of her solo piano compositions, as well as preparing additional recitals in Europe, New York City, and Boston. Mariel Mayz made her debut as a pianist with the Rockland Symphony Orchestra at the age of 16, and thereafter continued to perform in places such as Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, the Chamber Music Society at the Lincoln Center, Steinway Hall, the French Embassy in New York, Tenri Cultural Institute, Roulette, and many other venues. Mayz won the Hunter College Concerto Competition, where she performed the Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major and is an avid performer of contemporary music, frequently premiering new musical works in concert alongside standard repertoire. Mariel Mayz has been invited to a number of summer festivals, including Pianofest in the Hamptons, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, and the Gijón International Piano Festival in Spain. Mariel has worked in several styles of music, including jazz, gospel, and musical theater. Mayz received her bachelor’s degree in piano performance from New York University, minoring in social entrepreneurship. She later completed a dual master’s degree in piano performance and composition at CUNY Hunter College, and is currently a PhD Candidate at Brandeis University. Mayz is an adjunct professor of music theory at CUNY Hunter College. She also works as a vocal coach, accompanist, and private instructor of piano and composition, and is the program coordinator of the Hunter Mellon Arts Fellowship—a prestigious scholarship for undergraduate students that provides funding, internships, professional development, and mentoring to young professionals of underrepresented backgrounds who wish to pursue careers in arts administration. Mariel is the co-founder and associate director of Porto Pianofest—an annual international piano festival in Porto, Portugal.
About the composer
Cuban composer, conductor, guitarist, researcher, and cultural promoter Leo Brouwer was born in Havana in 1939. He is among the most renowned classical musicians in Cuba, with a six-decade career that includes the foundation of first ICAIC music departments in Cuba (1960) and the Havana Musical Theater (1962); in the foundation and direction of the ICAIC Sound Experimentation Group (1968); as guest composer at the Berlin Academy of Arts and Sciences (DAAD, 1970), conducting more than 120 symphony orchestras and chamber groups from all over the world; in participating as a jury in numerous international guitar, composition, and orchestra conducting competitions; in having a discography with his music that exceeds 1,100 recordings and a catalog of more than 500 works that cover almost all musical genres and forms; in his work as artistic director of Carrefour Mondial de la Guitare (Martinique, overseas France, 1976–2001); principal conductor of the Córdoba Orchestra, Spain (1992–2001) and general director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba (1981–2003). Commandeur des Arts et Lettres (Francia, 2018). He is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters of New York (2019), honorary member of the CIM of UNESCO, of the Italo-Latin American Institute, corresponding academician of the Academy of Fine Arts of Granada and the Royal Academy of Sciences, Fine Arts and Noble Letters of Córdoba (Spain), full member of the Cuban Academy of Language, Adoptive Son of the City of Córdoba (2001), among other memberships in prestigious international institutions. He has more than 300 international artistic and academic distinctions, among them: the “Manuel de Falla” Prize (Andalusia, Spain, 1998); the Title Doctor Honoris Causa at the University of the Arts (ISA) in Havana and at the University of Santiago de Chile; the MIDEM Classical Awards (Cannes, 2003) with his Helsinki Concerto for guitar and orchestra; the Pablo Neruda Order (Santiago de Chile, 2007), the Goffredo Petrassi Composition Prize (Zagarolo, 2008), the National Music Prize in its first edition (Cuba, 1999); the National Film Award (Cuba, 2009); the Tomás Luis de Victoria Ibero-American Music Award (SGAE, Spain, 2010) and two Latin Grammys (in 2010, for the entirety of his string quartets and in 2017 with his work Sonata del Decamerón Negro, No. 3 for guitar). Several groups and festivals bear his name, such as: B3: Brouwer Trío (Valencia, Spain), Coro Brouwer (Córdoba, Spain), Vocal Leo (Havana, Cuba), and the Young Leo Brouwer Philharmonic formed by musicians from various regions of Spain. He has composed and dedicated works to renowned musicians such as Julian Bream, John Williams, Yo-Yo Ma, Yuri Bashmet, Carlos Prieto, Edin Karamazov, Andreas Scholl, Egberto Gismonti, Chucho Valdés, Eos Guitar Quartet, Ricardo Gallén, Pedro Chamorro, Costas Cotsiolis, Bandini-Chiacchiaretta Duo, Thibault Cauvin, and Niurka González. Since April 2005 he has chaired the Leo Brouwer Office based in Havana and his own publishing house, Espiral Eterna Editions. In December 2008, the Leo Brouwer International Violão Festival was created in São Paulo, Brazil, on a biennial basis, and in October 2009, the Leo Brouwer Chamber Music Festival in Havana on an annual basis (2009–2014), of which he was its president and executive producer. Likewise, he has produced the Les Voix Humaines Festival (September–October 2015), the Solidarity Concerts in 2016 and the Contratenores del Mundo Festival (September–October 2016) in Havana. In recent years he has composed works requested by the Adelaide Guitar Festival, Changsha International Guitar Festival, Japan Guitar Ensemble Festival, Guitar Foundation of America, VZW Rhapsodies, Camerata Argentina de Guitarras, Quaternaglia, Tom Kerstens and G Ensemble Plus, Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, Apollo Chamber Players, Newman & Oltman Duo, Global Education Center & Intersection, Joao Luiz Rezende, Anne Akiko Meyers, Kaori Muraji, Virginia Luque, Thibault Cauvin, Anders Miolin, and Sheku Kanneh-Mason, among others.
About the album
To know contemporary classical music is to know Leo Brouwer. An acclaimed Cuban composer and conductor, Brouwer has long been celebrated as a modern-day Mozart who has birthed an inimitable body of work. While he has composed for a variety of formats, from quartets to orchestras, Brouwer’s canon is most widely associated with the guitar. For starters, he is a terrific classical guitarist whose teachers come from impressive lineage. His teacher’s teacher’s teacher was Francisco Tárrega, widely considered “the father of classical guitar.” As the saying goes, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” But to truly know Brouwer is to also know that he has also composed exquisite works for solo piano. Enter: Mariel Mayz. She is a remarkable pianist, composer, and teacher who has performed at venerable institutions such as Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center. She even wrote a chamber opera that premiered during New York Opera Fest. She helped to start Porto Pianofest, an annual piano festival in Porto, Portugal. Like Brouwer, she wears many hats and moves deftly among these roles. Quite naturally, Mayz first became aware of Brouwer via his guitar compositions. Some of these impactful compositions include “El Decamerón Negro,” “Variations on a Theme of Django Reinhardt,” “Tríptico,” and the “Estudios Sencillos.” Mayz heard some of these selections performed by João Luiz, a fellow ZOHO label Artist, and was thoroughly impressed. “I came to truly experience the detailed layers, references, and unequivocal finesse of Brouwer’s sound world,” she said. In fact, she credits Luiz for suggesting that she learn Brouwer’s Diez Bocetos for solo piano. “This music was utterly idiomatic, imaginative, and brilliant,” she reflects. Mariel Mayz’s Leo Brouwer: Cuban Sketches for Piano is a thoughtful, elegantly rendered piano solo album that features world premieres of two multi-part pieces: “Diez Bocetos” and "Nuevos Bocetos para Piano." Listening to these works is surely an awakening, as you’ll come to see Brouwer in a new light. And you’ll no doubt be enveloped by Mayz’s magical virtuosity as a performer and composer on this production. "Diez Bocetos" (“Ten Sketches”) were composed by Brouwer between 1961 and 2007, ultimately published by his own publishing imprint Ediciones Espiral Eternal. There’s a lot packed into each selection. Not only is each piece numbered but each is titled after a Cuban visual artist. Each is also dedicated to another individual. For example, “a Egberto Gismonti,” “a Chucho Valdez,” and “a Isabelle, mi mujer.” Brouwer imbues his music with even more vitality, notating passages when the performer should improvise: for example,“Improvisación (ad. lib.)” and “Cadenza ad. Lib. (alla Gismonti).” Mayz performs these 10 pieces with aplomb, navigating complex chromaticism and sprawling jumps with precision. Boceto No. 3 is particularly moving and Mayz performs it with a tender touch and reflective balance. Other notable moments include the beginning rumblings of Boceto No. 7, tranquility of Boceto No. 8, and the kaleidoscopic habanera of Boceto No. 9. With the world premiere of Variations on a Theme by Brouwer, we meet Mayz the composer, who wrote these variations based on Brouwer’s melancholic theme from Dia de Noviembre, the 1972 movie directed by Humberto Solás. The piece begins with the well-known opening, and as it moves to the B section, Mayz reveals her variations, which unfold thoughtfully throughout. Variation 1 is notated “Lontano; unanticipated” and showcases Mayz writing with a new compositional language. Each variation moves seamlessly to the next. No doubt, you can hear Brouwer’s inspiration in passages with this trademark of angular, melodic cells. Yet these themes have the texture of something more: rhythmic chords, brash tonal tensions, rich improvisations, and a panoramic understanding of Latin America’s musical traditions and stream-of-consciousness soundscapes. To put it simply, Mayz is out of this world. Nuevos Bocetos Para Piano (“New Sketches for Piano”) are three Brouwer pieces completed in 2021 and sent to Mayz in early 2022. They have a similar structure as “Diez Bocetos” with intriguing and vivid passages. Each selection is also given the name of a Cuban visual artists. That they are numbered three through five suggests that there must be two bocetos that haven’t yet been made public by Brouwer. Mayz performs these three pieces with alacrity. It’s during the up-tempo sections of Nuevos Boceto No. 3 that Mayz’s intrepidness is on full display, moving with thought and yet as if it’s second nature. The enigmatic No. 5 is a searing and searching piece that Mayz brings to life to full effect. Indeed, Mayz has inhabited the vivid world of Brouwer, and she shares her takes without compunction. “An Idea” (Passacaglia for Eli) is Brouwer’s stirring tribute to Eli Kassner, a Canadian guitarist on his 75th in 1999. Mayz was drawn to this particular piece because of a peculiar notation in measure 18: “quasi fiorituri Chopiniana,” which means “almost flowering Chopiniana.” That, of course, refers to the Chopin-like embellishments familiar to pianists such as Mayz. To be sure, “An Idea” has become a recurring one at her shows, as Mayz likes to program this striking number at her concerts. Mayz is a gifted guide through the world of Brouwer. This album is not just a serene meditation but welcoming invitation into the untrammeled areas of Brouwer’s canon. His music doesn’t just work for six strings but 88 keys. We should all be delighted and grateful that Mayz took up the charge and delivered a seminal work that will continue to make waves for years to come. Brava!
Kabir Sehgal, producer, Multi Grammy & Latin Grammy Award winner.
The MetLife Foundation Music of the Americas concert series is made possible by the generous support of Presenting Sponsor MetLife Foundation.
The Fall 2022 Music program is also supported, in part, by by the Howard Gilman Foundation, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and by the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from New Music USA’s Organizational Development Fund in 2022-23, the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and The Amphion Foundation, Inc.