Zen Zeng (piano) and friends
reviewed by Helen Fintlean
This was a Keyed-Up program with a difference, very far away from the standard piano recital format that audiences have experienced over the years. Instead, we saw a host of artists who featured in a program of music and dance from Spain.
In the first half of the program, Zen Zeng drew on the keyboard repertoire of the Iberian peninsula in works by Albeniz, de Falla and Turina. It was the last mentioned’s Noche de la Feria and La Ofrenda in which Zen Zeng sounded most at home, giving point and meaning to music seldom heard here and which, in lesser hands, might easily have sounded prosaic. And nimble fingers were a prime focus of attention in Falla’s much-loved Andaluza as they were, too, in the villainously demanding El Puerto and Corpus Christi en Sevilla from Albeniz’ Iberia.
In the minds of most people, flamenco is inextricably associated with the guitar. But in recent decades, there has been a growth of interest in piano music in flamenco style – and here we heard Zen Zeng in her own Solea which fell most agreeably on the ear.
In a most resourcefully compiled program, we also heard ace percussionist Steve Richter in duo with Zen Zeng in Camaron de la Isla’s Rosa Maria. I admired the skill with which piano and percussion integrated. It was an offering of considerable charm. Indeed, throughout the evening, Richter’s very real understanding of percussion made his every contribution most appealing.
Later, Zen Zeng was joined by castanets virtuoso Deanna Blacher in arrangements for piano and castanets of two of Granados’ most popular Danzas Espanolas. These were highlights of the program which, for those who have attended numbers of Keyed-Up recitals in the past, would have been considerably off the beaten track and opening new aesthetic vistas.
In a collaboration between Zen Zeng and Danza Viva Spanish Dance Company, Nicola de la Rosa gave a performance of splendid technical accomplishment, controlled emotion and exceptional grasp of style in a traditional Tangos – and was later joined by an on-form Karen Henderson in a no-less spirited and lively Bulerias. And to conclude the proceedings, something quite unexpected: an arrangement for castanets and piano of Rimsky Korsakov’s much loved Flight of the Bumblebee which brought the house down.