Sonoma - Napa News


Renowned classical pianist brings her improvisations to Santa Fe

8 Feb 2013 1:43 PM
Renowned classical pianist brings her improvisations to Santa Fe

On the cold January day in 2009 when Barack Obama was first sworn in as President, a diminutive woman took the stage alongside two classical music titans - Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma - to play piano in front of millions of people. For many of them, this occasion was their first introduction to Gabriela Montero, a Venezuelan-American pianist who has become famous for her extensive classical music knowledge and her virtuosic improvisations.

In the years since her presidential performance, Montero has become one of the most important figures in the contemporary classical scene. On February 10, Montero will be bringing her extemporaneous flair to the St. Francis Auditorium, a beloved Santa Fe venue within minutes of much of the city's most in-demand luxury real estate. The show will be the perfect opportunity for music lovers in Santa Fe to see firsthand why critics have been hailing Montero as one of the most important modern classical musicians.

After a performance in New York City, Vivien Schweitzer, classical music critic for The New York Times called Montero a "passionate" and "visceral" musician who enthralled the audience with her "improvisatory talents," over the course of a long show dedicated to the works of Rachmaninoff.

Although she is famous for devoting entire sets to specific composers, Montero also has a penchant for keeping audience members on their toes by following her own flights of fancy and blending classical pieces with modern and complicated improvisations. When she performs at the St. Francis Auditorium, this off-the-cuff spirit is likely to be in full effect. According to, Montero will ask audience members for suggestions so that she can turn them into original compositions on the fly.

When she has tried similar approaches in the past, critics and audience members alike have typically been quite impressed with the results. At a recent concert in Chicago, Montero transformed the Chicago Bears fight song into a multi-tiered Baroque composition and the Beatles "Yesterday" into a harmonically rich Rachmaninoff-like piece, according to the Chicago Tribune.

This free-form approach to performance is not only aimed at pleasing crowds, but at building a spontaneous relationship with them.

"I connect to my audience in a completely unique way - and they connect with me," said Montero. "Because improvisation is such a huge part of who I am, it is the most natural and spontaneous way I can express myself."