Last week on All Ears, we explored the concept of improvisation as practiced by virtuosos like Chopin and Liszt. Now we turn our attention to some contemporary performers who are expanding on that tradition. They include Gabriela Montero and Phillip Glass, as well as Jordi Savall's Le Concert des Nations.
Montero is unique among classical performers for her flair for improvisation. In concerts she is known for requesting melodies from her audience on which she then improvises. While this might seem farfetched to traditionalists, improvisation used to be a common practice. Bach was an expert improviser and Gabriela honors him in her original piece, Beyond Bach, which references his use of motifs and harmonies. At times, one might be fooled by Ms. Montero's skillful writing and mistake it for Bach's very own.
The journey continues with Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations. They perform Les Ameriquains, a work by an unknown composer. Savall and his ensemble travel back to a time where most ensembles improvised, and composers -- many who remained anonymous -- were also the performers, like Ms. Montero. Later in the show, Phillip Glass' Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra (2002) brings to light the piano's predecessor. The harpsichord was extremely popular during the baroque era, but went out of fashion with the rise of the piano. Composers and performers alike would compose and improvise on the instrument and it was a household item used for salon concerts. Glass ventures back by bringing the early keyboard instrument to the spotlight, highlighted with a minimalistic accompaniment that is uniquely Glass.
Rounding out the hour is music by Misha Alperin, Eve Beglarian, Gyorgy Ligeti, and much more.
Johann Sebastian Bach arr. Montero
Gabriela Montero, piano
Her First Dance
Misha Alperin, piano; Arkady Shilkloper, french horn, flugelhorn
Les Concerts des Nations
Jordi Savall, conductor
Reinbert de Leeuw, conductor
Koyunbaba for guitar, "Homage to a saint"
Friedemann Wuttke, guitar
Song for Helen
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano
Margaret Swinchoski, flute; Donald Mokrynski, clarinet; Ron Levy, piano
Until It Blazes
Seth Josel, electric guitar
Piano Sonata in F-sharp minor
Victor Sangiorgio, piano
Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra
Northwest Chamber Orchestra
Jillon Stoppels Dupree, harpsichord
Ralf Gothoni, conductor
Orange Mountain Music
Song for Athene
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chamber Chorus
Norman Mackenzie, director
On the Town: 'Three Dance Episodes'
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin, conductor