Ravinia, Bennett-Gordon Hall
August 20, 2013. 6:00pm.
- 3 Intermezzi, Op. 117
- Fantasy in C, Op. 17
Improvisations on themes selected by the audience.
On Tuesday night, I saw her for the first time. (And paid full price)
This concert had two clearly divided halves. The first half felt a little long to me. Granted, I love the pieces, but I had this feeling that her whole heart wasn't in them. The Brahms was played admirably, but she didn't really plumb the depths with them. The Schumann is a masterful epistle of love, loss and life, but it's treatment wasn't rhetorical enough to really pull me into the story. That was all fine and forgiven however, because that's not what I came for.
I came for the second half.
She pulled out a microphone and, in a heartbreakingly earnest and sincere delivery, told us that she wanted to play several pieces based on melodies that everyone knew, and then one piece based on an abstract concept. The audience was to just shout out their ideas. A huge smile came to my face and stayed.
Here are my notes and clips for some of the unfamiliar pieces:
1. Bach's Passacaglia in C minor
2. "I'll be Seeing You (In All the Old Familiar Places)" She used neighbor tones like Rachmaninoff and figuration like Chopin.
3. "Do-Re-Mi" (Doe a Deer, a Fe-Male deer) from the Sound of Music
At some point, she had to admonish, in Spanish, a Spanish speaking fellow who wanted her to improvise on a theme that was highly popular in an hispanic nation, but not here. She has my respect for controlling the audience gracefully.
She was kind enough to share that she is moving from Boston to L.A. very soon, and she's not regal, she just has a stiff neck from packing for 14 hours a day for 9 days. (Apparently she has a lot of stuff.)
5. On an abstract concept. "Moving from Boston to LA"
b. Boston winters (you can tell she finds Boston winters oppressive) b flat minor
c. L.A. (d flat major). Sunny.
6. "Over the Rainbow" Huge, huge close. A little vapid, but huge. The audience ate that up like chocolates.
Gabriela Montero has a gift for improvisation, and is a splendid pianist, but that doesn't interest me. Since the first, what I've found most compelling was her sense of timing, and the freedom that she brings to her musical speech. In her improvisations especially, she is unequalled for emotional depth and expressiveness. She's a good pianist, but her improvisations belong to the class of Arthur Schnabel playing a Beethoven slow movement or Michelangeli playing Debussy. In the world of concert pianists alive today, for the sheer emotionality of her music making, she's peerless.