Gabriela Montero

The Venezuelan pianist talks about her new composition, ExPatria, and giving her fellow Venezuelans a voice

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Pianist Gabriela Montero is best known as a concert pianist and classical improviser but for her first composition she’s tackling the world of politics. ExPatria is a passionate cry of pain for the violence and suffering in her country.

Why did you decide to write the piece?
I’m known as a classical improviser and of course composing is just the logical step after improvising. I wanted to write music about a meaningful issue, an issue that is very close to my heart. ExPatria is basically a human, emotional reaction, as a Venezuelan, to the national situation in my country and to the incredible violence that we have and the corruption. I wrote it because I wanted to call attention to a subject that is not talked about very often and to make people aware of what is really happening in Venezuala.

How did you translate all that into a piece of music?
I’m a very intuitive and emotional musician and the piece really came out of my own experience of Venezuala, my own sadness and frustrations and took musical shape [from those]. The piece is very punchy, at times violent, rhythmical and percussive with a lot of Latin rhythms. There’s a strong militaristic feel about it as well and there’s a middle section which is a lament, a very sad three or four minutes of music.

Was it difficult to write?
No, actually – I wrote it in about three or four months, but with very big breaks in between. Actually what was difficult was not to write it but to learn it, because I only had a short time and it’s a very complex, difficult piece.

How would you describe your relationship with Venezuela now?
It’s the most beautiful society, and the most wonderful country and we are so wealthy in so many different aspects – not just economically but also musically. I remember the warmth of the people very well – which we still have. But it’s depressing… I’ve not been back to Venezuela since I’ve become vocal about the situation in the country because, honestly, I don’t know how safe it would be for me. I want this piece to represent something for the many Venezuelans that need and want to have a voice. ExPatria represents all those who don’t have the opportunity to reach thousands of people. I feel it’s my duty to give them a voice.

Gabriela Montero will be performing ExPatria at Cadogan Hall, London with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields on 26 October at 7.30pm

Interview by Elizabeth Davis

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