Music Makers

Pianist Gabriela Montero's Election Improv

Gabriela Montero takes ideas from audience members to create on the spot improvisations. i i

hide captionGabriela Montero takes ideas from audience members to create on the spot improvisations.

Colin Bell
Gabriela Montero takes ideas from audience members to create on the spot improvisations.

Gabriela Montero takes ideas from audience members to create on the spot improvisations.

Colin Bell

Few classical musicians these days are serious improvisers — aside from organists and early-music practitioners. But pianist Gabriela Montero is absolutely fearless when it comes to creating a new piece, right out of the air, right on the spot. At her concerts she takes requests from audience members. They can suggest a song for her to improvise on, or simply a topic of interest.

At an Oct. 18 concert at Northwestern University, she was asked to improvise on the upcoming U.S. election. Politics is something of a passion for Montero. She's been outspoken about the political situation in her native Venezuela and in 2009, she joined violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and clarinetist Anthony McGill to appear at President Obama's inauguration.

For this "Election Improv," Montero presents two contrasting styles of music, pausing briefly after the opening theme to ask the audience if they can tell which theme matches which candidate. As the themes alternate the intensity increases, as if a debate between Obama and Romney were heating up. What's your take on this musical dialogue? Let us know in the comments.

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