Maria Zemantauski

Metroland

 Voted Best Guitarist in NY's Capital Region!

"SHE MAY PLAY A NYLON-STRING GUITAR rather than the more common steel-string flat-top, but don't be fooled -- classical/flamenco ace Maria Zemantauski doesn't pussyfoot around on those six strings and twenty-odd frets. She can set bass notes rumbling like an avalanche and treble passages flying like sparks off a blowtorch if she's so inclined. Around here, she is unmatched for both chops and the power to telegraph emotion that all art aspires to." 

Guitarist, writer

"...a musician with breath-taking technique--and not at the expense of soul. She holds her formidable technical skill in check with her emotional, passionate performances. Each song conveys a small story without one word...Her love of her guitar and music was only surpassed by her obvious love of the audience."

Times Herald Record

A Worthy Concert for Newburgh's Habitat

When that book comes out with the story of how Newburgh turned around, a big chapter should be devoted to Habitat for Humanity and the difference it's made in the lives of those who otherwise would not be able to live in a home of their own. I hope that somewhere in that chapter, the writer mentions the concert last Sunday at The Falcon in Marlboro, "Women Performers for a Women Build.

They filled the afternoon with music that captured the spirit of the Habitat effort and helped point out the special role that the organization plays in the lives of women.

As many of the performers and speakers said, Habitat around the nation and around the world has tried to keep a special focus on the housing crisis that affects so many women and their children. The Newburgh Habitat has been especially active on that front, sponsoring "women builds" for many years.

...The biggest surprise, at least to me, was Maria Zemantauski. She grew up in Newburgh and now lives in Troy, giving her a special understanding of the struggles that Hudson River towns endure. Who knew that from that background would come a world-class flamenco guitarist? ...

California State University, San Marcos

"Maria Zemantauski is a musical genius, whose performances leave her audiences asking for more. She plays with such passion and beauty, sharing cultural interpretations that make flamenco come alive for her audience. Building on traditional motifs and creating new and original works, Maria offers the best of both worlds. Her performance was magical, and the audience loved her!"

"Seacoast Guitar Society" York, Maine

"Maria is a superb guitarist by any standard, but her presentation, personality and stage presence are really what set her show special. She gave one of the best performances we have ever had here, and I think our only standing ovation in almost 4 years of guitar concerts."

Times Herald Record

"GUITARIST JOINS TRIO FOR LIVELY STRING MUSIC" 

NEWBURGH — In the annual Mother's Day concert at St. George's Church, the Newburgh Chamber Music players featured works that were composed over four centuries, beginning with "Two Trios for Three" by Giovanni Bassano (1558-1617) and concluding with "Summertime" by George Gershwin (1898-1937).

It was in the Bassano piece that violinist Carole Cowan, violist Valentinea Charlap-Evans and cellist Susan Seligman early on exhibited the kind of discriminating musicianship that would set the tone for the remainder of the strings-only concert. Following the somber mood of the first trio, the second part was marked by lyric playing by the violinist, full-bodied tones by the cellist and good balance among all three performers.

In "Chatingo (bulerias)" that followed, guitarist Maria Zemantauski, guest artist and composer, raised the intensity level of the concert by percussive and rapid slapping of the guitar's body before engaging the strings. And going beyond the wide-sweeping right hand sounds of Villa-Lobos' Prelude No. 1 in E minor for Guitar, she pushed the energy level even further with flinging fingers on the right hand and bold stroking with the left in "Punta y Tacon (farruca)."

Turning to more traditional music, Zemantauski joined the string trio in Vivaldi's Concerto in D major for Guitar and Strings, a work in which the trio section of the largo stood out for its reflective mood.

From baroque to early classical, the second half of the program opened with Haydn's String Trio in G major, Op. 53, an easily accessible peace that began with a lilting dancelike melody in the allegretto and closed with upward swooping bows in the climactic end of the presto movement.

For Astor Piazzola's "Dernier Lamento," the duet of Cowan and Zemantauski complemented each other with romantic lyricism on the violin and arpeggio support on the guitar. With Seligman joining the twosome in "Libertango," Piazzola's last piece of the set stood out for engaging guitar playing, bouncing bow patterns on the cello and hard-pull pizzicatos on the violin. In a change of pace, the movement faded to infinity. 

With "Rumba del Rio" and "Tinto Verano (siguiriya)," Zemantauski revealed once more a talent for idiomatic composing and performing as she combined body slapping and left hand fingering technique with abandon.

Rounding out the concert was a fantasy-style arrangement of "Summertime" by violinist Joe Venuti (of opposite hand fame). In her playing of the piece, Cowan elegantly alternated "singing" phrases of the tune with improvisational passages and even some rolling arpeggios. 

Metroland

"Master flamenco guitarist, Maria Zemantauski...grabs the power and emotion of her music--but only after spending a good deal of time on the thought and theory behind it...It is without a wisp of hyperbole that I can state that Zemantauski is every bit a modern heir to that great musical tradition and those great musical masters, in her skill as a performer, in her artistry as a composer, and in her mastery of mysteries of her music. This is how it's done when it's done right."

Singer, Songwriter, Composer, Activist

"A whole new generation of Women's Music - ani difranco, Bitch and Animal, Zrazy, Lauri B., Maria Zemantauski, all artists on stage this weekend. These women are joining the context, the imagining."

Dirty Linen

"Zemantauski's technique is flawless, and she brings novel touches to her arrangements of Spanish classics as well as introducing some gorgeous originals."

Metroland

Sensuous Sensibility

Maria Zemantauski

Under the Lemon Tree (Futon Dog Music) 

Gypsies of Spain’s Andalusia pro vince first spread the florid songs, dances, and improvised guitar accompaniment of flamenco throughout the rest of the country. And since it became the rage of Spanish coffeehouses in the mid-19th century, flamenco has also traveled a stylistic route leading from traditional forms to a freer, more open style known as nuevo (new) flamenco, and influenced both classical music and jazz along the way.

Maria Zemantauski’s fine new CD, Under the Lemon Tree, spans the spectrum of flamenco guitar’s evolution. The 11 tracks here include a pair of celebrated Spanish works, a hymn arrangement, and eight of her own captivating compositions. These last range from classic flamenco to more nuevo-sounding pieces flecked with borrowings from jazz, Celtic, and Appalachian string-band music. Guesting on the disc are Tony Dumas on cajon, Angelina Glashenkova-Reed on domra, and Martha Gallagher on Celtic harp.

The first track, “Rumores de la Caleta,” is Zemantauski’s showpiece arrangement of an 1887 piano piece by Spanish composer Isaac Albeniz, and, with its stentorian strumming, rapid-fire bass runs, and dreamy interludes, should convince you she is an outstanding guitarist. Other highlights include “River Street,” which starts off as a reflective air and then lunges into a blazing impression of a Southern fiddle breakdown. “Chanteuse” is a duet with Celtic harp in which the two instruments blend seamlessly, recalling in places the minimalism of Terry Riley. More traditional are the solos “Sundina’s Dance,” an alegrias, and the title track, a rumba. In “Recuerdos de la Alhambra,” Zemantauski breaks up Francisco Tarrega’s famous tremolo study for solo guitar into a serene duet with the domra, a Russian mandolin-like instrument. A heartfelt arrangement of “Amazing Grace” concludes the record.

I only wish Zemantauski had included liner notes for the pieces, but that is a mere quibble. Put your inquiring mind on hold and let your ears drink in her rich, sensuous music.

Taylor Guitar Team of Clinicians, National Fingerpicking Champion

"Maria's music embraces flamenco for its foundation, but builds the rest of its house with a broader mixture of materials, from classical music to Brazilian influences, all with inimitable Zemantauski-style."

Metroland

"While there’s no denying that Maria Zemantauski is the region’s preeminent flamenco guitarist, and is arguably one of the world’s finest practitioners of Spain’s most passionate music to boot, the thing that continues to blow our minds is how that doesn’t seem to be enough for her. In solo and a variety of ensemble performances over the past year, Zemantauski has continually pushed the boundaries of the possible with her trusty 6-string, blending genres that have little or no business appearing on the same bill, much less in the same song. It’s rarely less than electrifying to watch her do it."

Outsight

"...exquisite, traditional composition and world-class playing that combines masterful skill with a love of the instrument and its music."

Top 10 Local Albums Award

"I hate to break the news to all of you testosterone-laden guitar-god wannabes out there in Capitaland, but our hometown's greatest guitarist is female, finger-picks a nylon string guitar and is often seen in the company of flamenco dancers. Sorry guys."

Provincetown Magazine

"Maria is one of a growing group of women musicians who are finally becoming known for their guitar playing. Ani DiFranco, Rory Block, Bonnie Raitt, Badi Assad and...Patty Larkin...are among the many women musicians whose guitar playing has caught the ears of afficionados both here and abroad."

Flamenco Connection

"Zemantauski's new album adds some 'avios' to the stew in the form of percussion, bass and cello...Once again, nice playing and good taste are the order of the day."

Dirty Linen

"Too often flamenco-style guitarists get caught up in the speed-equals-passion trap, but not Maria Zemantauski. She shows an admirable restraint in her performance style, allowing the melody and emotion to be in the forefront without burying everything in a flurry of notes."

First Night Albany

"The flamenco guitar has never had a better friend than Maria Zemantauski. Zemantauski has delved deeply into the classic form. But she doesn't just turn out respectful renditions from the canon. She plays with all the flair and fury of the masters, and she has expanded the repertoire with original compositions that explode tradition while pushing the technique into the 21st century."

Metroland

"A true student of her instrument, Maria Zemantauski continues to build her repertoire by studying the masters--then takes what she learns and extrapolates, creating blindingly creative original work in the process. The disconcerting thing about what she's doing? She gets better every time we see her. One day, she's just going to make our heads explode!"

Times Herald Record

Flamenco Guitarist Enlivens Sunday Afternoon Concert in Newburgh 

Newburgh - Maria Zemantauski, internationally acclaimed flamenco guitarist, returned to her native Newburgh Sunday afternoon for a concert with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic String Quartet at the landmark Calvary Presbyterian Church.

In a concert sponsored by the Newburgh Chamber Music Series, Zemantauski soloed with a set of flamenco songs from various traditions and then joined the quartet for a guitar concerto. It was an afternoon of Spanish music at its best, full of life, musicality and dance. Zemantauski, who is also an educator, explained each number as a facet of its native culture.

The program began with the quartet, violinists Carole Cowan, Marka Young, violist Valentina Charlap-Evans and cellist Susan Seligman, playing Scarlatti's Sonata a Quarto in D minor, one of the first works composed for this ensemble. All the quartets to come resonated in the opening allegro with its swift upsweeping tempo taking the three-note motif to repeated variations.

The slow movement that followed moved from solemn, meditative chords with low cello bass to a swift allegro and minuet, played without pause to a concise, expressive conclusion. The quartet executed the intricate measures with a precision and fluidity that was a pleasure to hear.

Zemantauski next performed a solo selection from the traditional and nuevo flamenco repertoire, including some of her own compositions and adaptations. Beginning with a familiar "malaguena," deep-voiced and passionate, she moved to a tempo-swift "soleares" and whirling "bulerias," thumping on the guitar in rhythm. Two of her own pieces, a drumming "Chanteuse" and a tango-driven "Midnight in Gibraltar," took off with lightning strumming and dramatic beat, topped by "Paprika," a seamless display of her leaping long fingers and boundless energy. As she played, one could hear the singers' voices and the stamp of the dancers in the sound of the guitar.

After intermission, guitarist and quartet joined in playing Boccherini's Quartet for Strings and Guitar in D major, "Fandango." The first movement is a pastoral of dulcet melodies and springlike measures, with the upbeat allegro that follows, lyrical and building to a tutti flourish. The final movement is the titled "Fandango" that allows the guitarist to strum and pluck notes in high spirits and running cascades. It was a joyous finale to a unique afternoon of Romany music turned classical and played with ardor and inteligence.