Gabriela Montero recently changed the program content of her upcoming Portland appearances. She sent the following program notes for her all-improvised recitals:
To my listeners: This might be the first time, or one of the first times, that you attend an all-classical improvisation recital. This is not a jazz concert and I am not a jazz pianist. I am a classical pianist, and when I improvise, my language derives mainly from that world of sound, harmony, and structure.
Recently, I’ve decided to include in my concert schedule recitals that are entirely improvised. You might ask why. But why not? Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Albeniz, and others all extemporized with great skill before delighted audiences; and some, like Liszt and Thalberg, even participated in improvising duels. Some composers improvised on their own pieces in concert. The abilities of Chopin, Liszt, and Beethoven at this were well-known, and it was common for them to improvise portions of their already-written pieces. Why has this art nearly disappeared? I suggest that a desire to perfect the notes on the page (Is that really possible? How can we measure it?) has eclipsed the search for spontaneous creation. But spontaneity has its own value. By begetting a unique experience shared by the performer and audience, improvisation can invoke the moment when a classical piece arises from the subconscious and crystallizes in the composer’s mind.
Now, I don’t mean to put myself in the same category as Beethoven and Bach! But I was born with a talent for improvisation, and when doing that I feel most free and alive as a musician. When I improvise, I seem to inhabit a white void, and that is where my music comes from. I can’t stress enough how the process that these improvisations go through is as much a puzzle to me as it is to everyone who asks me: How do you do it? The value in this music is that it is created without thought, and that what leads me is pure inspiration, and not formulas or patterns.
Thank you for taking part of this musical experiment. I hope you enjoy the evening. Let’s imagine that we are back in the early nineteenth century…
— Program notes by Gabriela Montero
For ticket information, go here.