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Gabriela Montero is as famous for her playing of Bach, Chopin and Rachmaninov as she is for her extraordinary improvisations. Her latest recording is another adventurous departure from the norm. It features 26 short sparkling works by seven South American composers with the daunting Piano Sonata No.1 by Ginastera at its centre.
‘The Ginastera Sonata I’ve been playing a lot in the last few years,’ says the Caracas-born star. ‘I actually learnt it while I was studying at the Royal Academy [of Music, London] with Hamish Milne. That and the Joropo by Moleiro, the last piece on the album, have been with me most of my life. This is music which has great significance to me because of course I am Latin. The Latin sound and the Latin rhythm are somehow embedded not just in me but in everybody from my part of the world: it’s such a popular style of music that everyone relates to it in one way or another. A lot of composers have been influenced by it.’
The composers Montero has chosen to showcase are Ernesto Lecuona (1896-1963) from Cuba, Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934) from Brazil, Antonío Esteves (1916-88), Teresa Carreño (1853-1917) and Moisés Moleiro (1904-79) from Venezuela and Alberto Ginastera (1916-83) from Argentina. ‘These,’ Montero feels, ‘are some of the greatest representatives of this genre of music. For me it is music that is so alive that it transcends the written score. When you approach this music and you learn it and play it, you have to let go of all the pre-established notions of what is right and what is wrong. You really have to dance with it. You must have a physical way of seeing the music – it’s very sensual and very descriptive. You can almost hear the conversation between people within it.’
Many of the 26 miniatures Montero has selected for her CD are dance-based. The exception is Ginastera’s four-movement Sonata No.1 composed in 1952 and generally considered to be his master work for the piano, demanding incredible virtuosity. ‘The Ginastera Sonata is a very enigmatic and at times mysterious and violent piece – in a way, very animalistic,’ says Montero. ‘In that respect it’s a different sound on the recording. The rest of the repertoire on the disc is a lot of fun, lively and song-orientated, but I think the whole programme is well-rounded in the way it describes Latin America. I’m thrilled to be playing these pieces and to have recorded them.’
South American piano music is a comparatively recent phenomenon. ‘Our part of the world is very young and of course the European influence has been tremendous,’ Montero enthuses, ‘but when you think of the indigenous people and their innate feeling for rhythm – and rhythm is the backbone of Latin-American music – that and the emotional component make this style of music unique. The beginning of our music was in the rhythms and the songs and the complaints of love. Most South American love songs are about the unfairness and injustice of love! We may be a young culture in writing it, but not in the process of being it and feeling it. That is innate. It’s part of us, even if the process of scoring it is quite recent.’
How did Montero go about selecting the programme to record? ‘Well, I have a very quick, instinctive reaction to things, so it was based on that. And I have to say I really think I got it right. There is a time and space for everything. I mean you are definitely not going to have an epiphany playing Nazareth! It’s music to drink a rum and Coke to, to go out and be happy. And we need a bit of that – especially in the classical world. I love to sit and play Brahms and feel it’s an important moment in my life, to communicate and connect with that, but I also think we need the healing of laughter and movement and the joy that comes with this kind of music.’
....Y La Negra Bailaba!
A La Antigua
Porqué Te Vas?
Soñando Contigo (Improvisation)
Texturas De La Gran Sabana (Improvisation)
A La Argentina (Improvisation)
Sonata Op.22: I. Allegro Marcato
Sonata Op.22: II. Presto Misterioso
Sonata Op.22: III. Adagio Molto Appassionato
Sonata Op.22: IV. Ruvido Ed Ostinato
Sin Aire (Improvisation)
Odeon (Tango Brasileiro)
Brejeiro (Tango Brasileiro)
Mi Venezuela Llora (Improvisation)
Mi Teresita (Little Waltz)
“Montero has a phenomenal as an improviser...And what these amount to is a charming palimpsest from the Latin American classical tradition. And while Ginastera's Sonata - delivered here with brio - is now a concert staple, everything else has the freshness of novelty.”
“This is Latin American music the way it should be heard, i.e. played by one with it in her blood. Phrasing and colouring are intensely human. Fingerwork is crisply articulated, whatever the speed. Montero's own works effortlessly complement the rest of the programme.”
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