Opening slowly and reflectively, a little sadly, Gabriela Montero’s ‘Latin’ Concerto is soon out of the traps bursting with notes for the piano – hip-swinging and foot-tapping – as the sun shines on this ‘Mambo’, the orchestra joining in the festivities, although that twilight/bittersweet beginning returns at the movement’s midpoint before exuberance take hold once more. If you have a soft spot for George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto and a liking for Lalo Schifrin’s music, you’ll purr over Montero’s ‘Latin’ take – individual within her chosen parameters of South American rhythms, colour and sultry atmosphere – the latter quality to the fore in the central Andante moderato, a gently reminiscing song heard under the stars that becomes more animated, and denser, as if Rachmaninov was down Mexico way, although that is geographically misleading given that the Finale is location-specific, Allegro venezolano (although there is a hint of Ginastera’s Argentina in the mix). Whereas the middle movement is a little too long for its material this wind-up one is pithy, the dance mesmeric in it angular progression. If, as the composer, you also happen to be a concert-standard pianist, then you can deliver a definitive performance, ably supported.
The Orchestra of the Americas and Carlos Miguel Prieto also give unstinting accompaniment in pit/jazz-band style for Ravel in G, for which Montero is shapely and sophisticated if perhaps too laid-back during the laconic moments in the opening Allegramente, although she is very expressive in the trill-laden episode (about seven minutes in); otherwise she flies, scintillates and takes no prisoners in the bass (with an Argerich-like impetuosity and attack). The central Adagio is nicely done, flowing and poetic, with the feeling of extemporisation, personable woodwinds joining the conversation. The Finale matches its Presto marking without losing clarity – good bass-drum shots, piercing clarinet, trombone glissandos and syncopated bass pizzicatos (the latter matching Maazel, conducting for Collard).
On the booklet’s credit page, rarely have I seen so many producers, seven, and that’s before you get to engineer and editor Jonathan Allen, also a producer. Still, the end result is impressive and enjoyable, very well recorded.