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Written by Garry Fraser
Published on Monday 14 March 2016



It is the right of any soloist to provide an encore after a concerto performance. Sometimes they can be superfluous, other times a memorable ending to a marvellous concert. In the latter category falls Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero, who provided a tailpiece to her performance with the Scottish Ensemble in the Caird Hall that was worth the admission money alone. But it wasn’t simply a delivery of a short work from the repertoire. It was a piece of improvisation that was absolutely stunning. From a theme suggested by the audience, in this case “Happy Birthday To You”, she took us through the world of Liszt and Chopin – to mention just two styles – with some scintillating technique and marvellous vision.

An excellent performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.14 was left in the shade, such was Montero’s improvisatory brilliance.

It was Mozart of another form that started the concert and in this I didn’t detect the Ensemble’s customary pin-point cohesion and captivating brilliance. Perhaps it was the work itself, an Adagio and Fugue that can’t be classed as one of the composer’s finest works.

With the theme of the concert being South Atlantic Crossings, i.e. an examination of different styles and traditions, there was bound to be much more to excite. And I wasn’t disappointed. A marvellous Villa-Lobos work, where he fused the polyphony of Bach to the elan of Brazil, followed before the Ensemble provided an impeccable, beautifully-balanced Bach six-part Ricercar.

However in this transatlantic tussle, the trophy went to the master of tango, Astor Piazzolla. His Three Pieces for Chamber Orchestra and Piano was immense in every way, sultry and laid-back one minute, lively and energetic the next. The perfect mix.