Baroque

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Baroque: improvisations on themes by Sanz, Vivaldi, Pachelbel, Handel, Albinoni, Bach and D Scarlatti; plus works by Montero
PERFORMER: Gabriela Montero (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: EMI 500 2342

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‘Is she for real?’ one might ask on reading the liner-note to this CD. Gabriela Montero claims every piece was created on the spot: all are improvisations arising out of the ‘white void’ she inhabits when letting her pianistic mind roam free.

Having once put her to the test myself, when she was less famous then she is today, I can vouch for the authenticity of her improvisations: whatever idea you lob at her, each piece emerges miraculously fully-fledged – a real composition.

And thus it is here. Vivaldi’s ‘Autumn’ becomes a Brubeckian scamper, his ‘Summer’ a firework display in the manner of the Cuban maestro Ruben Gonzalez; Pachelbel’s ‘Canon’ is transformed into a dreamily Schumannesque rumination, while Handel’s ‘Hallelujah’ chorus becomes Bizet crossed with Scott Joplin.

There’s a lot of Bach hovering in the background, with Handel’s famous ‘Sarabande’ given a spaciously Bach-Busoni feel.

Occasionally she descends to noodling with a whiff of Richard Clayderman, but for the most part this CD is a brilliantly original display based on a superb keyboard technique.

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For Beethoven and Liszt, classical improvisation was a serious art: this statuesque Venezuelan proves the art is not lost.