BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Gabriela Montero

Schumann
Kinderszenen, Op.15
Shostakovich
Piano Sonata No.2 in B-minor, Op.61

Improvisation

Gabriela Montero (piano)


Reviewed by: Barnaby Page

Reviewed: 13 November, 2017
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Gabriela MonteroPhotograph: Shelley MosmanIf it was a slight disappointment that Gabriela Montero concluded her Wigmore Hall recital with a free improvisation rather than working from an audience-supplied theme or (as she often does) one from the repertoire, nevertheless it’s rare to hear concert extemporisation so its inclusion was a breath of fresh air.

Montero’s creation “to describe my broken country” (referring to her native Venezuela, not her adopted Catalonia) opened in a cantabile manner, peaceful and perhaps pastoral, that became briefly stormy. The clouds receded, the atmosphere lightened then darkened again; and a sudden pause was followed by a wistful piano section, like the fading memory of what had gone before. Finally, she slowed to a close with a perhaps-hopeful upward ascent, and the first sense of stability in a poignant four minutes.

Earlier, if the episodic effect of Schumann’s Kinderszenen was inevitable given the nature of the pieces, Montero handled each section with fluidity and appealing contrast: making the most of the potential for humour, but also exploiting the lyricism of ‘Träumerei’ and concluding with a tellingly tentative ‘Der Dichter spricht’.

There was much drama in the wartime Shostakovich Sonata, as you’d expect from a piece roughly contemporary with the Eighth Symphony, especially in the unnerving first movement, dynamics masterfully timed – with mesmerising pianissimos in the second – and in the Finale with its conjuring of unstoppable mechanised conflict.

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