Have you seen the some of the incredible improvised performances by Gabriela Montero on YouTube? Not only is she an accomplished classical pianist, but she’s an incredible improviser as well. In this video, she took a request from the audience to improvise upon the theme from J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations:
According to her website, she takes online requests as well — and performs improvisations live from her living room bi-weekly. Be sure to read the bio on her website; it’s quite interesting to read about her background.
On a more personal note (pun intended), I am currently taking a Music Research class at college. Our first assignment is to come up with topic ideas for a paper we’ll be working on all semester. One of the ideas I have is to discuss how today’s modern performance practices differ from Romantic 19th Century performance practices — particularly, the decline of improvisation among pianists. In the days of Listz and Clara Schumann, improvisation was a standard part of a performance. And when pianists did perform a piece composed by someone else, it was usually modified beyond recognition. Why is it that most modern pianists do not improvise ever — much less during a performance? I would like to research the causes that would explain may have contributed to this decline.
Gabriela Montero seems to be a major exception, however. Her talent in improvisation is incredible. It may be one of the contributing factors to her popularity as a pianist. I was pleased to come across her name this week as I contemplate topic ideas. What do you think?