The Venezuelan pianist, Gabriela Montero, started improvising at the piano at age 4; her teacher in her native Venezuela brought her to the attention of Martha Argerich, who came to be an important influence in the young pianist's life. Montero gave her first public performance at the age of 5. At age 8 she made her concert debut in Caracas with the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra conducted by José Antonio Abreu and was granted a scholarship from the Venezuelan government to study in the USA. At 12 she won the Baldwin National Competition and AMSA Young Artist International Piano Competition, performing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. A former student of Lyl Tiempo, Rosalina Sackstein and Andrez Esterhazy, she continued her studies with Professor Hamish Milne at the Royal Academy of Music in London, graduating with the highest honours. Gabriela has won international prizes including the Bronze Medal at the 13th International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1995. She lists Rudolf Barshai, Michel Béroff, and Stanislaw Skrowaczewski as mentors, and performs frequently with pianist Támás Vasáry and the Janácek Quartet.
Gabriela Montero’s visionary interpretations have won her a quickly expanding audience and devoted following around the world, from South America and the USA, Europe, to Japan and the Far East. Her engagements include acclaimed performances with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Houston Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (at the Hollywood Bowl), New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and Toronto Symphony Orchestra in North America; Philharmonia Orchestra (at the Royal Festival Hall) and Orchestra of Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields in the UK; Komische Oper Berlin Orchestra, NDR Hannover Symphony Orchestra, WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, Kremerata Baltica, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Zürcher Kammerorchester in Europe; Sydney Symphony Orchestra in Australia.
Recent collaborators include conductors Claudio Abbado, Marin Alsop, Gustavo Dudamel (with whom she also works regularly with the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra), Mikko Franck, James Gaffigan, Pietari Inkinen, Kristjan Järvi, Patrick Lange, Lorin Maazel, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Peter Oundjian, Vassily Petrenko, Carlos Miguel Prieto, Leonard Slatkin, Christian Vasquez and Mario Venzago. On her debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Lorin Maazel, Anthony Tommasini commented in the New York Times that "Ms Montero's playing had everything: crackling rhythmic brio, subtle shadings, steely power in climactic moments, soulful lyricism in the ruminative passages and, best of all, unsentimental expressivity". Other recent and past engagemnts include Boston Philharmonic with Benjamin Zander, Stuttgarter Philharmoniker, and her acclaimed performances with the and UBS Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra under Antonio Pappano at the Tuscan Sun Festival. She offers orchestras that engage her a list of over 30 concertos.
In recital Gabriela Montero has appeared at the festivals of Bergen, Dresden, Edinburgh, Istanbul, Lanaudiere, Lugano, Merano, Ravinia, Salzburg, St Denis, Tanglewood, Tivoli, Verbier and Klavier-Festival Ruhr, as well as at renowned venues as the Berlin Konzerthaus, Berlin Philharmonie, Teatro Colon Buenos Aires, Tonhalle Düsseldorf, Frankfurt Alte Oper, Musikhalle Hamburg, Kölner Philharmonie (as part of the Cologne Musiktriennale 2007 whose theme was 'improvisation'), Gewandhaus Leipzig, Herkulessaal Munich, Wigmore Hall London, Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, National Arts Centre Ottawa, Orchard Hall Tokyo, Kennedy Center and Library of Congress in Washington D.C., and Vienna Konzerthaus. She is invited annually to he "Progetto Martha Argerich" Festival in Lugano and to Martha Argerich's Buenos Aires Festival. She has also appeared at the Roque d’Anthéron, Radio France Montpellier, Schleswig-Holstein, MDR Musiksommer, Penderecki, and Radio Canada Chopin festivals Montero has been heard on NPR's Performance Today "Sing It and Wing It", where listeners call in to suggest melodies upon which she then improvises. She has also been profiled on CBS's 60 Minutes (December 3, 2006).
Notably, though, Gabriela Montero often plays her own improvisations, and it is as a classical improviser that she is gaining the most attention. In solo concerts, she will often play a piece by J.S. Bach or Frédéric Chopin or Scriabin, and segue into an improvisation on that music, more often than not turning it into some sort of dance. Later, she will solicit from the audience themes on which to improvise, and even accepts jazz and pop melodies she's never heard before. In her interview on All Things Considered, she says that when she was 2 or 3, she began improvising on lullabies that her mother sang to her. Her visionary interpretations and unique improvisational gifts have won her a devoted following around the world. "I connect to my audience in a completely unique way - and they connect with me. Because improvisation is such a huge part of who I am, it is the most natural and spontaneous way I can express myself.” Both in recital and after a concerto performance, Gabriela often invites her audience to suggest themes and melodies for her improvisations.
It has long been a desire to take her improvisations to the next logical step of composition, Gabriela Montero has enthusiastically embarked on this new phase of her career by composing in 2011 a tone poem for piano and orchestra, entitled ExPatria. Her composition received its premiere performances in London and on tour in Germany with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields orchestra. In these concerts, her multi-faceted talents were featured along with her new work as Montero performed L.v. Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto as well as her legendary solo improvisations. Montero will revisit ExPatria this season (2012-2013) with orchestras in the USA and Europe.
Gabriela Montero's innovative perspectives are also in wide demand outside of the classical music world. In January 2009, she was invited to perform at President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony in Washington D.C. At this truly historic occasion, Montero joined cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, and clarinettist AnthoMcGill in a performance of Air and Simple Gifts, by the composer John Williams. In January 2010, Montero was invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland where she gave a seminar to a rapt audience on The Art of Improvisation. In 2013, she is invited again to the World Economic Forum in Davos as a featured speaker. She has been invited to participate in the 2013 Women of the World Festival held at London's Southbank Centre. She is an honored recipient of the 2012 Rockefeller Award for her contributions to the arts. She was also invited to speak at the Cultural Leaders Dinner and The Power of Music Seminar.
Gabriela Montero’s 2011-2012 season included performances with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Vienna Radio Symphony, RTE National Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Zürcher Kammerorchester, Orchestra of the Komischer Oper Berlin, and Czech National Symphony Orchestra. She gave recitals at Vienna Konzerthaus, London Wigmore Hall, Geneva Victoria Hall, Istanbul CRR Concert Hall, and at the Ruhr, St Denis, Aldeburgh, Rheinfelden, Espinho and Lugano Festivals. In the 2012-2013 season, Gabriela makes her debut under the baton of Leonard Slatkin with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as well as her recital debuts at the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Luxembourg Philharmonie. She also tours her recital programme to Munich, Lisbon, Winterthur, St Poelten, Baden Baden, and Dortmund. Further European dates include a tour with cellist Gautier Capuçon and performances with the Rundfunk Symphonieorchester Berlin, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Residentie Orkest Den Haag, and Stavanger Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, she presents the world premiere of a new piece for violin and piano with British violinist Ruth Palmer in New York.
Gabriela Montero’s recordings for EMI Classics comprises of one disc of music by Sergei Rachmaninov, F. Chopin and Franz Liszt and a second of her deeply felt and technically brilliant improvisations. Her EMI CD “Bach and Beyond” (released 2006) is a complete disc of improvisations on themes by J.S. Bach which held the top spot on the Billboard Classical Charts for several months. She earned two ECHO Awards from the Deutsche Phono-Akademie: the Keyboard Instrumentalist of the Year Award in 2006, and the Klassik-ohne-Grenzen (Classical Music without Borders) Award for “Bach and Beyond” in 2007. This album introduced listeners to her unique blend of traditional concert repertoire and dazzling trademark improvisations. In February 2008 her follow up EMI recording of improvisations “Baroque” was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2008 and released with great critical acclaim, receiving 5 star reviews from BBC Music Magazine and Classic FM. Gabriela’s most recent recording “Solatino”, recorded by EMI Classics in February 2010, is devoted exclusively to works by Latin American composers. She selected the works of six composers, including Alberto Ginastera’s Piano Sonata No. 1 as well as her own improvisations on Latin themes. Montero toured to several German cities following its release in October 2010. Each of the performances was recorded live by Abbey Road Live for immediate release and purchase by the audience. The best tracks from these performances were later compiled into a singular compilation disc entitled “Live In Germany”.
Gabriela Montero currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts with her two daughters.