Gabriela Montero Piano Recital including 12 Improvisations

by | Dec 31, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Gabriela Montero, piano = RACHMANINOV: Moment musical in E Minor, Op. 16, No.   4; Prelude in G, Op. 32, No. 5; Etude-tableau in D, Op. Op. 39, No. 9; SCRIABIN: Prelude in D-flat, Op. 17, No. 3; Prelude in E-flat Minor, Op. 18, No. 4; Prelude in G, Op. 13, No. 3; Etude in C# Minor, Op. 42, No. 5; FALLA: Spanish Dance; GRANADOS: The Maiden and the Nightingale; GINASTERA: 3 Dances; CHOPIN: Nocturne in D-flat, Op. 27, No. 2; Fantasie-Impromptu in C# Minor, Op. 66; LISZT: Mephisto Waltz No. 1; MONTERO: 12 Improvisations

EMI Classics 58:09; 46:15 ****:

Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero (b. 1970) is a protégé of Martha Argerich, and she commands a powerful, musical palette and a big temperament. Her EMI program has a decided, erotic outlook, spanning the color elements of Rachmaninov’s bravura and intimate pieces, to Scriabin’s concentrated, sultry mysticism, to Ginastera’s bold evocations of pampas life. Several of her choices reminded me of the programs Benno Moiseiwitsch championed, given Montero’s more percussive brilliantine. The Falla Dance from La Vida Breve does for the piano what Kreisler’s transcription achieves for the violin – a series of veronicas in limpid folds. The one moment from Granados’ Goyescas, The Maiden and the Nightingale, plays like an Iberian Tristan und Isolde.

The three dances by Ginastera (1937) ring as much with Prokofiev’s sarcasm as they do of feminine seduction. After the soft intimacies of Granados, the Gaucho Dance sounds like a machine gun. Downshift again to the wafer-thin arpeggios in Chopin’s D-flat Nocturne. Montero plays it as a tender ballet realized en point. The Fantasie-Impromptu flows like water, first laughing then waxing nostalgic. The recital up to the Liszt has been glittering worlds in tiny spaces. If we wanted confirmation that Montero could be Teresa Carreno reborn, we have her Liszt C Minor Mephisto Waltz. The Devil’s eyes shine like topaz as dancers swirl and filigree tumbles over three octaves. The middle section sings barcarolle-fashion, until the decorative, fanciful motifs, the open fifths and fiddler’s trills, carry us back to the abyss. Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.

The Improvisations take standard classics, like Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, Bach’s Goldberg motif, and Chopin’s little Prelude in A, and jazzify them into something like high nightclub camp. Picking out the tune from the emergent clusters of sounds becomes a kind of sophisticated party-game. The whole is so Gershwinesque that I wound up asking myself if Montero would just sit down, make like Earl Wild, and play Gershwin’s arrangements of popular tunes. As a concert ploy, Montero likes to elicit tune suggestions from her audience and then do the dozens at the keyboard. So, we have a fine, albeit brief recital and one snazzy demo tape.

–Gary Lemco

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