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Saturday, 11 July 2015

Gabriela Montero and a Twitter Party at the Wigmore Hall

Instruments from the Versatility Serenaders' set-up at the Wigmore Hall Twitter Party
Instruments from the Versatility Serenaders' set-up
at the Wigmore Hall Twitter Party
To the Wigmore Hall last night (10 July 2015) where the hall had an event celebrating its supporters on Twitter. A group of those active on Twitter were invited to the piano recital by the Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero, followed by a reception at which we were able to meet many fellow Twitter people, including a number of performers. Gabriela Montero played Schubert's first four Impromptus followed by Schumann's Carnaval, and in the second half she performed five improvisations, four on themes suggested by the audience. Then afterwards, there was a terrific party, with a chance to see Ruth Elleson, Opera Creep, Curzon Product, Tara Persaud, Larkingrumple, David Hughes, JBaillieu, Simon Lepper, CollerB, Hugh Canning, Robin Tritschler, Iestyn Davies  and many more - you can read all about it on Twitter at #WigmoreTwitterParty

In Schubert and Schumann, Gabriela Montero combined a strong technique with a sense of poetry and above all some lovely big, vibrant tone. She seems to play quite close to the keyboard and from the opening notes of the first Schubert impromptu we knew that we were in for some big bold playing. The four Impromptus make a large scale group, almost a sonata in breath and conception, and Montero brought a seriousness of purpose to them, allied to some finely graded playing and real vibrancy. This approach paid off in the Schumann, where Carnaval became a sequence of really highly coloured character sketches with Gabriela Montero moving with quicksilver speed from one strongly characterised mood to the other. This was a big opening half, lasting well over an hour, but the second half was completely remarkable too.

Here Gabriela Montero  gave us five improvisations, four of which were based on themes suggested by the audience; the draw back being that the audience member had to sing the theme. Gabriela Montero has improvised at the piano since she was eight, and she said that she enjoyed it because it was of the moment, there was Nothing before, and nothing after.

The first suggestion was the theme tune from Indiana Jones which was sung with gusto by the member of the audience and elicited the comment from Gabriela Montero that it was so '80s but drew from her a remarkable piece of playing which started in neo-fugal mode and gradually moved from Bach to Beethoven. Dido's Lament gave up a web of influences with a lovely complex of moving lines in the piano, gradually evoking something of Brahms' Handel variations with one influence merging into another. The song The Lady is a Tramp yielded the hilarious situation where no-one seemed to be able to sing the tune properly. The theme Gabriela Montero ultimately used, generated some chunky harmonies and big late-romantic sounds which gradually developed into a really high energy Prokofiev-like climax.

The next improvisation was on her native country Venezuela, with the themes of struggle and chaos helping us to understand their pain though music. It started as something surprisingly simple and haunting. Always sober and sombre, the music developed really strong intensity. Finally, an improvisation on Happy Birthday which moved from Mozart to a big Russian romantic finish.

There were a number of Venezuelan's in the audience and their lively reaction to Gabriela Montero's playing included a young boy with a Venezuelan flag.

And afterwards of course, there was a terrific party. Not only catching up with old friends, but meeting people with whom we had only previously had an on-line relationship. It was great to have a long meet tenor (and recent Twitter recruit) Robin Tritschler with our talk ranging from the recent Cosi fan tutte at Garsington, to Twitter hash tags and the music of Percy Grainger. We started with cocktails and the cakes had the new Wigmore Hall logo in them. And were entertained by Patricia Hammond and the Versatility Serenaders whose style is intended to invoke the music on recordings from the early 20th century and who are certainly worth catching.

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