Gabriela Montero - Baroque
Judging from her booklet-notes, Gabriela Montero holds her carefree, unplanned, “take one” improvisational modus operandi dear. Yet much of her third CD devoted to improvisations benefits from her growing focus and discipline on all fronts. She's largely conquered her earlier tendency to rush fast tempi in the heat of creation; the concise and balanced opening selection Canarios is a winning case in point. The easy lyrical flow of Montero's revamped Pachelbel Canon attests to the pianist's new-found (and very welcome) sense of space (that is, what to leave out as well as what to include). Handel's Hornpipe takes an imaginatively wrought detour through Rachmaninov's church bells, while Montero whips Vivaldi's “Summer” and “Winter” concertos from The Four Seasons into a dazzling and succinct toccata.
Like all improvisers regardless of style, Montero has her pet licks, and her over-dependence on slow left-hand ostinati sometimes blurs that thin line between effective decoration and cocktail noodling, as a rhapsodic tome based on Albinoni's Adagio bears out. But if you want a truly puerile habanera guaranteed even to make a mediocre dance-class accompanist cringe, check out what Montero does with Handel's Hallelujah Chorus's main theme. Take two, anybody?