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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

Pianist Gabriela Montero's Election Improv

Gabriela 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.

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.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.