SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -Nanette Kaplan Solomon, Slippery Rock University professor of music, will interpret the "passion, lyricism and humor" of the late composer Mana-Zucca when she presents "All Mana of Music" Sept. 26 in Swope Recital Hall. Solomon's free concert will be at 7:30 p.m. She will repeat the performance at 2 p.m. Oct. 6 at St. Patrick Church in Youngstown, Ohio.
Solomon said she admires Mana-Zucca's unapologetic individuality, spirit and status as a woman pioneer on piano. Solomon researched the composer's life and music during her sabbatical and will present the concerts as a culmination of her research.
Solomon recently recorded a CD of Mana-Zucca's music that will be released this fall.
Mana-Zucca (1885-1981) was a composer, musical comedy star and patron of the arts. The child prodigy performed in Europe and the U.S. and composed more than 1,000 works.
"First of all, and most importantly, the music is very gratifying to play," Solomon said. "It is full of passion, lyricism, humor and is remarkably well-written for the instrument. It was truly a joy to spend hours getting this repertoire 'under my fingers,' as they say."
The program will include "Fugato-Humoresque on the theme of 'Dixie,' "Bolero de Concert" "Valse Brillante" and "Zoaves Drills." Some of the other works include "Southland Zephyrs," "Resignation," "Nostalgia," "Memories," "Badinage," "Etude d-Amour," and "Polka-Comique." The piano sonatas are large-scale pieces that are majestic and commanding in scope.
"The style of music ranges from nostalgic evocations of Edwardian parlor music, to impressionistic sounds like the music of Griffes and Debussy, to the virtuosic and colorful sonorities of Scriabin and Rachmaninoff," Solomon said. "Some of the later works have a little more dissonance, with biting and sarcastic tones like Prokofieff or Shostakovich. Mana-Zucca had an incredible gift for melody and she herself was a wonderful improviser, so her works have an immediate emotional and sensual appeal. She was also a masterful pianist as well as a singer - and she wrote songs that were popularized by Nelson Eddy and Paul Anka, among others - so even though her career spanned the twentieth century, she was more attuned to the 'retro' Romantic aesthetic of the 19th century."
Born Gussie Zuckermann in 1885 in New York City, she began piano study at the age of four, performing for New York socialites and debuted with the New York Symphony at the age of 11. In the early 1900's, she toured Europe with Spanish violinist Juan Manen.
Returning to America in 1913, Zuckermann encountered difficulties resuming her pianistic career after triumphs as an operetta star, and focused her energies on composition. In 1916, she rearranged the syllables of her surname to form "Mana-Zucca" and successfully published her compositions and sponsored recitals at New York's Aeolian Hall. In 1921, Mana-Zucca eloped with Miami businessman Irwin Cassell and moved to Florida. There she continued to be prolific as a composer until her 1981 death.
Solomon said she had access to Mana-Zucca's 76 boxes of archival material in Florida, which ultimately landed at Florida International University.
"I was so fascinated by Mana-Zucca's life, and so intrigued by her very gratifying music, that I vowed to return to this rich mine of information and repertoire that I had encountered accidently 10 years ago when searching for music for a conference presentation," Solomon said. "So when I had the opportunity to apply for a sabbatical, I knew this was a project that was calling to me."
Solomon said she is fascinated by Mana-Zucca's multi-faceted career as a woman composer/pianist/singer in the early part of the 20th century.
"She kept re-inventing herself, and seemed to have a contagious 'joie de vivre,' according to all who knew her. During the years she spent in Europe, and then later in her home in Miami, she was in contact with basically every luminary in the musical world. She was a tireless champion of the arts in Miami and elsewhere and a prolific composer with more than 1,000 works that certainly deserve to be heard."
Solomon's musical niche is women composers. She has recorded two CDs, "Character Sketches" and "Sunbursts." Each one includes seven solo piano works by contemporary women. Composers include Stefanie de Kennesey, Ruth Schonthal, Emma Lou Diemer and Victoria Bond. Solomon has also performed works by Libby Larsen and Nancy Galbraith.
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