Saturday, March 01, 2008
Gabriela Montero: Master of Improv
I would have missed Gabriela Montero's unique piano recital if my blogging friend Carol had not introduced me to her considerable talents via this video clip. The Venezuelan-born pianist performed nearly 2 hours in our city this past week. Her much anticipated recital did not disappoint!
During the first half of the program, Gabriela showcased her talent by performing Schumann's Carnaval, a series of short, musical vignettes depicting historical and folk characters. In typical romantic fashion, bursts of passionate energy were interspersed with short cycles of tender melody requiring a gossamer touch on the keys.
Gabriela was up to the challenge, and interpreted the forceful, strong sections with the agility of a musical athlete. The contrasting playful and singing movements were executed in such a way to make you feel as though you were listening to musical poetry.
But the real treat was the final half of the program, in which Gabriella shared her unique gift of improvisational playing. Most of us would probably associate improv musicians with jazz, but Gabriella proves that classically trained musicians can contribute with equal aplomb.
Taking requests from the audience, Gabriella would take a well known theme and proceed to turn it inside out and upside down in the tradition of the Baroque masters.
But although baroque is obviously her forte, she is not above throwing in other musical styles and rhythms. Take Me Out to the Ballgame as a two-part invention? The Beatles' song Michelle with hints of salsa? How about Over the Rainbow in ragtime?
She could and did do it all.
The net result of her improvisational display was that the audience became totally engaged in the music. The stiff, formal atmosphere melted as the performer and the audience shared in the JOY of the music.
Music is a uniquely human pursuit, and whether we are polished musicians or amateurs who sing off-key in the shower, sharing our enjoyment together creates powerful memories. How wonderful to see a musician who can transcend the gap between performer and listener! Gabriela Montero has contributed significantly to my musical memory bank.