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Music Review: Montero makes SoLatino a Fun, Personal Statement


Gabriela Montero has made this album her own, showing her heritage with a very personal expression and fun mood.  SoLatino digs deep into Latin American culture with six different composers and some extra improvisations by Montero herself.

The CD begins with a couple fun, bouncy Latin pieces by Lecuona which transitions perfectly into a slower ballad.  It is obvious from the start of the recording that the thought-out selection of pieces and songs makes for a complete, diverse idea of the range of Latin compositions and techniques. 

Ernesto Lecuona is featured on this album, and though his name might not be familiar to all Americans, in Cuba he levels George Gershwin; his music, which combines movie, pop and folk themes, has become classical repertoire.  Lecuona was a movie composer and prolific piano player.  He was nominated for an Oscar in 1942 for his hit “Siempre en mi Corazon” (Always in my Heart), but lost to “White Christmas”. 

Malagueña from the Suite Andalucía is Lecuona’s best-known works, and it combines the fun, energetic feel of Latin music with the embellishment and structure of traditional compositions.  Maurice Ravel once said that, “Malagueña is more melodic and beautiful than my own Bolero.”  It is clear that Gabriela Montero has fun with this piece and that makes the recording that much better to listen to.

The centerpiece of this recording is Ginastera’s Piano Sonata No. 1, Op 22 and Montero shows her virtuosity with this piece as is perfect with passion and technique.  Ginastera has a unique sound and this sonata sums all of that rhythmic excitement in one piece. 

Montero also includes four improvisations of her own as a personal statement to her influence on the Latin-American classical music.  These pieces show a combination of her true understanding of the piano, and a uniqueness that most classical pianists cannot and do not embrace.  Gabriela Montera has been improvising for her whole career and in these pieces she combines classical training with themes and melodies from her childhood and heritage.

Not often do you come across an album that truly represents the artist performing it, but this recording is the exception. SoLatino provides a variety of pieces that showcase differences in Latin music and Montero’s talent captures the spirit and fun in all of the pieces.