Chicago Classical Review » » Montero pushes Music of the Baroque with a spirited Mozart

Gabriela Montero performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 with Baroque music at the Harris Theater on Saturday night.Photo: Shelly Mosman, courtesy of IMG Artists

Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero provided an energetic complement to the sophisticated and sensitive sensibility of the music of Mrs. Jane Glover and the Baroque Orchestra at the Harris Theater of Music and Dance on Saturday night. , played several roles. Playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, Montero’s occasional rushing baroque brought a sense of urgency to his orchestral debut. But her technical prowess, her nuanced phrasing, and her deep sense of style eclipsed the exciting renditions of her film-famous productions.

Things got a little messy in the first movement’s rapid scales and arpeggios, rushing past the orchestra. Montero’s preferred tempo seemed to be several ticks faster than conductor Glover’s. The orchestra could not keep up. But in summary, the tempo seemed to calm down as Glover realized Montero’s urgency and Montero’s adrenaline wore off. Overall, this tempo push-pull created a sense of on-the-fly spontaneity and invention, even if it was nerve-wracking.

The sun-soaked second movement, sometimes called “Elvira Madigan” after it was used in the 1967 Swedish film of the same name, was elegantly presented by everyone. The famously suave melody isn’t overly expressed, and Glover and Montero let it speak for itself.

Montero’s forward thrust was restored in the final movement, and now the orchestra seemed to have less resistance. In this one of Mozart’s most technically challenging concertos, Montero executes the rapid scale with great ease, bringing romanticism to the dense final cadenza. This may be her own invention, as the original cadenza for Mozart’s No. 21 is lost.

A composer known notably for his talent for improvisation, Montero offered to riff a famous musical theme chosen by the audience as an encore. “Somewhere over the rainbow!” cried one member of the audience. After a brief run through the piece using standard jazz harmonies, Montero set out to work on Bach’s variations. This is very stylistically appropriate and beautifully crafted, making fun parties high beyond the realm of his tricks to his art.

Bookends for the Piano Concerto were Symphony No. 1 by Mozart’s contemporary Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges and Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E-flat major. The Bologne symphony, one of only two of his surviving works, was a well-composed masterpiece full of pleasant melodies. As usual, Glover is sophisticated in her interpretation, bringing out subtle details and textural contrasts in the tips of her index fingers and swoops of her hands.

In Symphony No. 39, the reins are firmly back in Glover’s hands. She was effectively one of the players, with no podium and taking command based on her memory. The usual barriers were removed and the enhanced connections created the most unified performance of the night.

Glover’s interpretation was lively yet with characteristic nuance and control, precisely shaped with the greatest parsimony of gestures. Standout moments included a breezy clarinet solo performed by Zak Goode, echoed by Mary Stolper on the trio’s flute, and the finale’s opening theme, with Glover first on violin before the full orchestra entered. I let him play the malt piano and lifted his spirits. Haydn-esque wit of movement. Overall, this baroque rendition of Mozart’s late symphony shows why Glover is a Mozart master.

The program will repeat at the North Shore Center in Skokie on Sunday, January 22nd at 7:30pm.

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