Praised by the press in New York after his Carnegie Hall debut for his "improvisatory freedom, sonorous climaxes, and formidable octaves”; his style at the piano has being described as “authoritative” and at the podium as “emphatic and passionate”, “matinée idol good looks” that make him an audience favorite wherever he performs."
“fascinating… all first class playing."
One of the most prominent pianists in Mexico (and a national treasure, to judge by his phenomenal technique)” [Fanfare magazine], he is the winner of the most important piano competitions in his home country, and in 2013 he was awarded the First Prize in two competitions open to instrumentalists and singers from all over the world: The World Competition and New York's Shining Stars Debut Series.The latter represented his debut in Carnegie Hall, performing the New York premiere of Manuel Ponce's Piano Concerto.
Highlights of the 2015-2016 season include the world premiere of "The Sun Pyramid", piano concerto by Juan Pablo Contreras, with the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico and a reprise with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in Caracas; his return to Carnegie Hall in New York; his appearance as guest conductor with the Coahuila Chamber Orchestra playing and conducting from the piano Beethoven’s Concerto No. 4; the recital “Dreams: Piano Transcriptions of works by Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky” in many cities in Mexico and in his Chicago debut as part of the Dame Myra Hess memorial concert series; and a tour in Mexico with star soprano Maria Katzarava performing Poulenc’s La VoixHumaine.
The previous season included his debut with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra,his second appearance in a row at the most important artistic and cultural event in Latin America, the International Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato, and a private recital with Ms. Katzarava at Guildhall in London for the city's Mayor and the Mexican President.
In 2013-2014, Abdiel Vázquez performed the Mexican premier of Samuel Barber's Piano Concerto; and the recital “Parnassus and Paradise:the Operas of Wagner and Verdi” at the Cervantino Festival, which was considered by the critics “one of the best and most attractive recitals ever presented in the festival's history”. The program of rare transcriptions by Liszt, Tausig, Cziffra, Martucci, and Vázquez himself was recorded releasedlast year by the British labelPiano Classics with the title “Love & Death” [PCL 0101].
Abdiel made his debut with the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico at Bellas Artes Palace performing Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto with only 21 years of age, and since then he has appeared regularly every year with all of the country's major orchestras. His engagements in festivals, concerts, competitions, and opera companies have taken him to Asia, Europe, South America, and the United States, and in the last years his career has expanded into orchestral and operatic conducting.
In 2009 Abdiel founded Juventud Sinfónica de Monterrey - Monterrey's Symphonic Youth - an orchestra comprised of the most outstanding musicians from his hometown. With this orchestra he became the first Mexican pianist to play and conduct from the piano Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, and Ponce's Piano Concerto.
Abdiel Vázquez was born in Monterrey in 1984 and by the time he finished his conservatory studies in this city in 2006 he had already received the National Youth Award from hands of the Mexican President, the Civic Merit Medal, the State Youth Award, and a scholarship from the National Endowment for Culture and Arts. He then continued his education in New York and Madrid.
He counts as his mentors the pianists Gerardo González, James Tocco, and Oxana Yablonskaya; the conductor David Gilbert, and the mezzo soprano Mignon Dunn.
He currently resides in New York City, where he belongs to the faculty of vocal coaches at Manhattan School of Music and he is also the founder and director of the music school Little Chopins in this city.
"I’d anticipate a virtuoso program of piano transcriptions and paraphrases to be an impressive display, but Abdiel Vazquez goes considerably further. This panoply of Wagner and Verdi for the piano amounts to one of the most entertaining recitals in memory for a genre that is often long on fireworks and short on feeling. Vazquez, one of the most prominent pianists in Mexico (and a national treasure to judge by his phenomenal technique), has a gift for warmth that wins the listener over. Nothing is coldly hammered out, and his rounded tone reminds me of early Jorge Bolet far more than, say, Georges Cziffra or Lazar Berman. To declare that his technical command of this fiendishly difficult repertoire stands on the same level as those famous names isn’t an exaggeration. None of them, however, can make the keyboard sing as naturally as Vazquez does throughout his belated commemoration of the Verdi-Wagner bicentennial.
Hearing virtuosos play mash-ups of famous melodies with the addition of several thousand extra notes was a favorite Victorian indoor sport, of course, and audiences still revel in the tricks developed prominently by Liszt and Tausig. For the most thickly textured arrangement, I’d nominate Tausig’s almost unbelievable transcription of the Ride of the Valkyries, where Vazquez cheerfully accommodates the demand for double octaves and double trills, roulades, runs, and so on—it’s a compendium of pianistic flash. Mellower is Vazquez’s own venture into Die Meistersinger, which borrows from previous arrangements done by Liszt, von Bülow, Franz Bendel, and even Hugo Wolf. In both pieces he is able to convincingly build to a climax, no easy feat when maximum effect generally comes early and often.
The pianist’s talent for spinning a lyrical line is exemplified in Tausig’s lovely arrangement, not too overloaded with embellishments, of "Wintersturme" from Die Walküre; Vazquez’s exemplary legato made me hear Siegmund’s voice singing. Tausig arranged the Liebesnacht and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde as Paraphrase No. 1, here titled Love Scene and Transfiguration. Frankly, it’s more pianistic than the heavily tremolo-laden Liebestod transcription done by Liszt, which we normally hear, and Vazquez soars throughout.
These four Wagner transcriptions are followed by four Verdi items, paraphrasing thrice-familiar tunes from La forza del destino, Rigoletto, Aida, and Il trovatore. First comes a world premiere recording of the La forza arrangement by Giuseppe Martucci (1856-1909), who was prominent in four roles as composer, pianist, teacher, and conductor. (Vazquez’s Meistersinger transcription is also a world premiere, and I’d judge the Tausig numbers as fairly rare.) Liszt’s paraphrase of Rigoletto is the most well-known piece on the program, coupled with his atmospheric Aida transcription of the priestesses’ offstage dance from the Nile Scene and the final Tomb Scene. Of special interest, however, is the last item, Cziffra’s Il trovatore paraphrase, for which the only source, I gather, is a 1956 recording. (It’s not that uncommon for certain pianists to pick up even very complex virtuoso pieces by ear—Arcadi Volodos did the same with a set of Carmen Variations “after Horowitz” on his first Sony album in 1997.) Vazquez states his belief that Cziffra’s “hyper brilliant” transcription was never performed again, although one wonders if he really dropped it from his recital programs.
In any event, this new release is a dazzler and brings to the forefront a pianist I’m eager to hear many more times. The recorded sound from Piano Classics is full, realistic, and exciting when Vazquez’s fingers really get smoking."
"This is a very special disc indeed. Abdiel Vázquez, successful in many competitions and the pianist that gave the Mexican premiere of Barber’s Piano Concerto, as well as founder of the Monterey Symphonic Youth, is a pianist in the “old style”, clearly relishing this pot-pourri of transcriptions, rhapsodies and paraphrases on works by Wagner and Verdi. He lists Oxana Yablonskaya and James Tocco among his teachers.
The ten-minute Rhapsody on Themes from “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” is based on works by Liszt, Franz Bendel (a disciple of Liszt’s in Weimar), Wolf and Hans von Bülow. It is artfully constructed and simply beautifully played. There is a simply wonderful sense of flow here. Vázquez plays with a golden tone, his Steinway superbly caught in a recording he himself produced (the engineer is Kevin Boutote). The feeling of grandeur at the end of the Meistersinger Rhapsody is perfectly apposite to the close of the opera it is meant to invoke; the more questing harmonies that begin Tausig’s transcription of Siegmund’s Love Song from Die Walküre are like sonic medicine, enabling the listener to drift from old Nuremberg into the land of mythic forests. The vocal line, which begins about 90 seconds in, is heard with an impulsive, thrusting accompaniment that speaks with a strong accent of Spring, love and heroism. The “Walkürenritt” is more interesting than convincing as a piece, with the use of the trill as a generator of excitement rather than as decoration emerging as intriguing rather than fully convincing. Nevertheless, the textural build-up towards the end is most impressive, and the performance shows off one of Vázquez’s strongest points: no matter how thick the texture, things never get overloaded. I wonder if Vázquez has ever considered performing any Sorabji …
Tenderness shot through with latent eroticism is the key to the success of Vázquez’s rendition of the Wagner/Tausig Tristan Paraphrase. This is nearly 20 minutes in duration (18”20 to be precise) and so is a perfect fit for Vázquez’s strengths of long-term thought, a trait not usually, perhaps, associated with repertoire of this ilk. That it all works so perfectly is testament not only to Vázquez’s intelligence as a musician, but also to the inherent strength and integrity of these pieces. The shaping of the “Transfiguration” final segment of the opera (“Mild und Leise”) is splendid, as is the sheer beauty not only of Vázquez’ tone but also of his articulation and voicing.
The remainder of the disc is given over to works on material by Verdi. The Martucci was composed in 1871, less than a decade after the premiere of the opera itself. It is a tremendous, coruscating romp that nevertheless absorbs the pathos of Verdi’s original. It is this combination of technical tour de force with the capturing of the flavour of Verdi’s original that makes this so spellbinding; that, and Vázquez’s astonishing legerdemain. Around six minutes in, there is a mesmerising passage crowned by super-high trill that invokes Liszt. In contrast, the Verdi-Liszt Rigoletto Paraphrase is highly popular; Vázquez stands with the greats here, ceding only perhaps to Cziffra (EMI). Listen to how Vázquez voices and delivers the left-hand chords in the final peroration, a section in which most ears concentrate solely on the right-hand descents, to hear the level of care that this pianist accords his interpretations.
Vázquez’s ability to nail the flavor of an opera while at the same time presenting the identity of the transcriber is in full earshot in the Verdi-Liszt Aida “Sacred Dance and Final Duet”. The final minutes find Liszt in quietly ecstatic, almost religious, mode, and Vázquez’ delicacy here is astounding. Finally, Cziffra makes an appearance himself in his Concert Paraphrase on Themes from Il Trovatore (as performed by Cziffra in his 1956 recording, according to the documentation), which positively bulldozes its way in after the Aida piece. Unashamedly brash and bright, this also contains moments of almost saccharine sweetness.
Both the Meistersinger and Forza performances are World Premiere recordings. The disc actually comes as the result of a recital that constituted Vázquez’ debut at the International Cervantino Festival in Mexico and which celebrated the birth bicentennials of both Wagner and Verdi. It is a cause of much celebration to have the fruits of this recital on disc.
Those wishing to extend their familiarity with this segment of the repertoire may wish to investigate pianist Michele Campanella’s three-disc set of transcriptions and paraphrases on Brilliant Classics (94610): Campanella is immersed in this music. But let that not detract from the special nature of Vázquez, his enterprise here and his sterling pianism. Let’s bookend this review with its core message: a very special disc indeed."