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            Zyman has been a member of the faculty at the Juilliard School since 1987 (as well as at Vanderbilt University for the last three years) and the composer of works performed widely, internationally.  His more than seventy published compositions include chamber music, sonatas, symphonies, many concertos, vocal music, and a film score.   Their variety is impressive, from wind ensembles to trombone octets.   A native of Mexico City, he was educated first in Mexico, and then received graduate degrees from the Juilliard School. His American teachers of composition include David Diamond and Roger Sessions.  The recipient of numerous honors, they include the Mozart Medal and both the Mexican Most Outstanding Composer of the year (1992), and the Medal of Merit in the Arts (2014).

            Many of his works are manifestly in a rhythmically complex and chromatically dense twentieth-century academic style—after all he was a student of Sessions and Diamond.  But, he is equally master of an innate lyricism.  To add to his flexibility of expression, he occasionally enjoys infusing his compositions with a clear reference to traditional Mexican musical style.  And that is clearly what Encuentros is all about.

            Commissioned by the Mexican TV network, Televisa, Encuentros was part of the music for the Mexican Pavilion at the Seville World Fair of 1992.  The charge to Zyman was to compose a work that was clearly “Mexican” in its incorporation of traditional musical elements, but which was also—in the words of the composer—to convey a sense of “modernity, progress, and optimism.”  But not to be an example of “modern” musical style!  And so it is.  Driven with Zyman’s characteristic rhythmic verve—but using traditional Mexican syncopated dance rhythms as ostinatos, the orchestration is replete with colorful allusions to Mexican musical traditions.  Whether Mariachi trumpets, marimbas, harp, or flute and tuba features, the infectious tapestry of colors propels it.  Underlying it all are the ubiquitous traditional native instruments of the percussion section, including claves, guiro, maracas, and more.  The energetic opening and closing sections feature a parade of musical ideas, and bookend a central section that an apt example of the composer’s gift for contemplative lyricism.  It’s all an entertaining delight and complete evidence of the stylistic flexibility of an outstanding composer.

--Wm. E. Runyan

©2022 William E. Runyan