GABRIELA MONTERO’s visionary interpretations and unique improvisational gifts have won her a quickly expanding audience and devoted following around the world. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, she gave her first public performance at the age of five. Aged eight, she made her concerto debut with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, conducted by Jose Antonio Abreu, and was granted a scholarship from the Venezuelan Government to study in the U.S.
Gabriela Montero’s 2009/10 season takes her across continents for performances of her trademark improvisations and with major orchestras. She began the season performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and John Williams’ Air and Simple Gifts with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. As the season progressed, Montero debuted with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, performing works of Mozart and Grieg, respectively, before returning to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In Europe, Montero appeared with the Rotterdam Philharmonic and James Gaffigan before performances with the Kremerata Baltica Chamber Orchestra.
In addition to her orchestral engagements, Montero gave several recital performances as a soloist and with French cellist Gautier Capuçon, with whom she frequently collaborates. North American engagements included appearances at the Perimeter Institute, the Van Cliburn Foundation, Cornell University, the Honens International Piano Competition in the fall, and at the Savannah Music Festival in the spring. In May, Montero and Capuçon embarked on a European recital tour that included performances in Italy, France and Germany. She finishes the season with festival appearances at the Ravinia Festival, the Tuscan Sun Festival, the Verbier Festival, and the Bergen International Festival, among others.
In both recital and after performing a concerto, Gabriela often invites her audience to participate, asking them for a melody for improvisations. They have asked for themes from a Mozart symphony to Star Wars, and at times, even the orchestra has a chance to suggest a theme if they so wish. “When improvising,” Gabriela says, “I connect to my audience in a completely unique way – and they connect with me. Because improvisation is such a huge part of who I am, it is the most natural and spontaneous way I can express myself. I have been improvising since my hands first touched the keyboard, but for many years I kept this aspect of my playing secret. Then Martha Argerich heard me improvising one day and encouraged me to make this part of my concert presentations. It was Martha who persuaded me that it was possible to combine my career as a serious ‘classical’ artist with the side of me that is rather unique.”
Gabriela’s first EMI/Angel CD consisted of one disc of music by Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and Liszt, and a second of her deeply felt and technically brilliant improvisations. Standing alongside inspired performances of core repertoire, improvisation plays as important a part in Gabriela’s life as it did for Bach and Mozart; to show the link, her EMI CD Bach and Beyond, which topped the charts for several months, is a complete disc of improvisations on themes by Bach. In February 2008, her follow-up EMI recording of improvisations, titled Baroque, was released to great critical acclaim, receiving 5-star reviews from BBC Music Magazine and Classic FM. In 2009 Baroque received Grammy nominations in the Best Classical Crossover Album category as well as Best Producer.
Gabriela’s Bach and Beyond was given the “Choc de la musique de l’année” award in 2006 from the French magazine, Le Monde de la Musique. She rounded off the year 2006 with the Keyboard Instrumentalist of the Year at the ECHO Preis Award in Munich and in 2007, they awarded her the Klassik-ohne-Grenzen Award for her Bach and Beyond CD for the second year in a row. Gabriela has also been heard on NPR’s Performance Today in “Sing It and Wing It,” where listeners call in with a melody upon which Gabriela improvises, and has also been profiled on CBS’s 60 Minutes. In January 2009, at the invitation of President-Elect Barak Obama, Montero played in the quartet performance of John Williams’ Air and Simple Gifts at the 56th Inaugural Ceremony.