Unflinching precision and beauty – the evening last night was replete with precise notes, falling one after another without interruption, yet arrayed with timbre, expressiveness and energy. Gabriela Montero was at her best with the Prokofiev Concerto Number 3, and she performed two wonderful improvisations, one on ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, the other based on the ‘Here We Go Steelers’ tune. She asked the audience for someone to sing a song. One lady sang Twinkle Twinkle melody — it turns out I know her personally, and talked to her at intermission, so that rules out any possibility of a ‘plant’ in the audience 😉
Ms. Montero begins with the simple melody for ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, then changes the key and introduces other forms of development. Next chords and other threads begin to appear — counterpoint breezes through adroitly with cascading lines, and Presto: it now sounds like a full flung Bach composition, yet the Twinkle Twinkle continues to materialize. The spontaneous nature of her improvisation is impressive to say the least, and goes to show her amazing talent – not only as a performer but as a composer of classical music. The second improv was more in the style of Liszt, with a fluid meandering of fingers intertwined with a teaming cadence quite lively and exuberant.
The Prokofiev concerto was new to me. It began with a very fast tempo – which to me was almost feverish, and very enjoyable. After the first movement I heard someone say – amazing! The second movement was filled with lush strokes and the final movement exhibited grand gestures from both the piano and the orchestra.
Earlier in the day I listened to a podcast interview hosted by Jim Cunningham of WQED where she talks about her new composition, a piano concerto which makes a personal political statement about Venezuela. On facebook she indicates that she is working on a recording of the composition which she premiered recently in Germany called ‘ExPatria’. This is an excerpt from her facebook page:
As an expatriate Venezuelan, it may be of little surprise that I should wish to express, in music, a longing for the beautiful country of my birth.
However, my debut as a composer reaches beyond private nostalgia to a very public cry. ExPatria is a portrayal of a country barely recognizable from that of my youth. It is my emotional response to the loss of Venezuela herself to lawlessness, corruption, chaos and rates of murder among the highest in the world.
Of course I asked for her autograph at intermission after taking the above photos, and asked about her composition. I wish I had more time to talk, but had to get back to the Brahms.
After intermission I was awestruck by the beauty of the Brahms Symphony number 2 expertly played by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Guest conductor Christoph König majestically conducted the orchestra with an express set of gestures succinct in their effect with the players, and entertaining for the audience as well.