|Bach to the Future
by Anna Lisa Eyles December 2006
Gabriela Monteros latest CD, Bach & Beyond, is a contemporary exploration of nearly a dozen of Bachs better known works, extemporizing the multiple, largely classical directions the works might have taken if written in this century.
Opening with a keyboard arrangement of "Jesu, Joy of Mans Desiring", Montero plays technically challenging variations on the theme. These are soothing, but move away from Bachs lyricism and dynamics.
The third and to my mind, best track of Bach and Beyond is Monteros own composition "Beyond Bach". Sometimes bordering on New Age music, this work is true to Monteros improvisational style.
Like Bach and other major composers of his era, Montero improvises in live concerts for her audience. Bach too, would honour his patrons guests by improvising and exploring a theme suggested. Bach improvised a five voice fugue for Frederick the Great, he later sent a set of fugues to the Prussian King, humbly claiming that his performance during the Kings visit was unworthy. This transparent gift resulted in a monetary contribution. Monteros arrangements explore the potential of the technical aspects of Bachs works.
Track 10 on Monteros CD is from the Allegro movement of the Brandenberg Concerto No. 3. Bachs fund-raising efforts for his growing family were less than successful here, when he composed and sent the unsolicited concertos to honour the Markgrave of Brandenberg. Reportedly, these six concertos were found still unopened in the Markgraves library after his death. With a jazz-like interpretation, Montero retains some of Bachs power and dynamics and allow this work to remain in the forefront of any listeners psyche.
Despite Monteros belief that the music comes to her from somewhere out in the ether, for Bach purists, her explorations may not end in wondrous discovery. Unlike previous liberal interpretations of the works of great composers, Monteros free improvisational style maintains much of the essential classical nature of the original themes. The direction, level, and stories of the music however, are diverted and lack the underlying sense of Bachs power. While Monteros resolutions return to Bachs main themes, the style of the codas are distinctly impressionistic. Perhaps we will hear more of Monteros own compositions and style in future CD releases.