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Gabriela Montero (piano)

Alejandro SANZ (b.1968)
Canciones [1:40]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
The Four Seasons;
Autumn [2:24] Winter [5:10], Spring [3:46] Summer and Winter [2:00]
Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706)
Canon [4:27]
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Sarabande [3:51]
Hallelujah [2:21]
Hornpipe [4:49]
Gabriela MONTERO
Baroque and Me [4:27]
Continuum [4:11]
Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1750)
Adagio [7:01]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Prelude [2:00]
Gabriela Montero (piano)
rec. No1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, June and July 2007
EMI CLASSICS 5148382 [52:39]


Experience Classicsonline

A word of explanation. The normal format for head notes on this site is an opus number, key, and date of composition. But this is not such a disc and EMI itself studiously refrains from going into such detail - and that’s because Gabriela Montero is that most rare of things, a genuine classical improviser. She has her own website and you can set her a suitable challenge and, if you’re lucky, she might improvise on your selected piece.

That’s what she does here. The theme obviously, as the album’s title indicates, is a self-contained one. And so Montero set forth in No1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, in June and July 2007 to compose newly minted, unique takes on a succession of popular baroque favourites.

I know she admires Bill Evans. So perhaps one way of approaching what she does is to bear in mind the limpid, interior and refined expression of which Evans was a master. But there’s also a brazen rhythmically volatile Venezuelan heart beating in Montero’s chest cavity, so one should also be aware of the Jelly Roll Morton in her soul. Morton took classical themes, of course, and ragged them, jazzed them, syncopated them and brought them to rude Sportin’ House life. What Montero does is rather different though there are analogies.

She opens with the jaunty Canarios but soon encounters Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, all four of whish she essays throughout the fifty or so minutes of her recital – Summer and Winter are tagged together and last two minutes! Her Pachelbel has mid nineteenth century romantic affiliations whilst the Handel Sarabande builds to a big, sonorous climax.  The Hallelujah chorus is a jokey thing bristling with Ragtime and Mortonesque Spanish Tinge. Handel’s Largo meanwhile is lushly romantic. The Albinoni Adagio is a big improvisation and the one that drifts the farthest, harmonically speaking, from its home port. There are also hints of a composer I suspect Montero likes, Rachmaninoff, in her powerful and rich chording. There are more explicitly jazz based elements – rhythmically at least – in Bach’s Prelude. And when it comes to Winter from the Four Seasons we find the melody emerging from the improvised reverie. The only piece that seems to me too over-extended is the Handel Hornpipe. But it does at least make an immediate contrast to the breezy Scarlatti sonata that follows it with its South American admixtures. And Montero-watchers can note with pleasure her own composition Baroque and Me which offers a kind of prescription for what she does – with a strong Bachian ethos, tight trills, ornaments and harmonic explorations.

Enjoyable and unusual fare then from Montero; true there are some longeurs but if you don’t strive (and occasionally falter) you won’t create such generally zesty and sensitive reshapings.

Jonathan Woolf



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