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Speaking of Pianists » 2008» October

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    Archive for October, 2008

    Montero Update

    Monday, October 20th, 2008

    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.

    Goode on Schubert

    Monday, October 6th, 2008

    Pianist Richard Goode will play Franz Schubert’s final sonata in his second Portland recital on Tuesday, October 14th.

    The Sonata in Bb Major, D. 960, written in the last year of Schubert’s short life, is a work of transcendental beauty.

    Goode discusses Schubert over dinner with the late David Blum, author of Quintet: Five Journeys toward Musical Fulfillment (Cornell University Press, 1998).

    “Some people feel that there’s a premonition of death in those last sonatas,” he said. “Yes, there’s a darkness and fatalism, but you find those qualities in Schubert from way back, not only in his last year. One of the things that move you in Schubert is the coexistence of marvelous beauty, sweetness, and grace with a kind of terror waiting to be disclosed.  More than Beethoven, he evokes the uncanny. You feel how vulnerable that beauty is.”

    In addition to the Goode piece, Blum’s wonderful book contains stories about Yo-Yo Ma, Jeffery Tate, Josef Gingold and Birgit Nilsson.

    Tickets are available for Goode’s Tuesday evening Portland performance.  Go here for information.