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 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, Andrez Esterhazy and Professor Hamish Milne at the Royal Academy of Music London, 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 has appeared with orchestras across the world from South America and the USA, Europe, to Japan and the Far East and she recently made her debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Lorin Maazel. Anthony Tommasini writing in the New York Times commented 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". Her other recent engagemnts include NDR Hannover, Boston Philharmonic with Benjamin Zander, Stuttgarter Philharmoniker, the Lanaudiere Festival and the Philharmonia Orchestra with Gustavo Dudamel, with whom she also works regularly with the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra. Other past highlights include her acclaimed performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl, Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Kremerata Baltica, and UBS Verbier Chamber Orchestra under Antonio Pappano at the Tuscan Sun Festival.|
In recital Gabriela Montero has appeared at at the Edinburgh Festival, Verbier Festival, Wigmore Hall London, Klavier-Festival Ruhr, Berlin Konzerthaus, Tonhalle Düsseldorf, Musikhalle Hamburg, Herkulessaal Munich, Kölner Philharmonie (as part of the Cologne Musiktriennale 2007 whose theme was 'improvisation'), International Istanbul Music Festival, Bergen Festival, Kennedy Center Washington D.C., National Arts Centre Ottawa, Orchard Hall Tokyo, Teatro Colon Buenos Aires. She 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).
Gabriela Montero offers orchestras that engage her a list of thirty-two concertos, but her recital repertoire is rather odd by current standards: Short pieces vastly outnumber the few large works she plays (around 2005, these included one sonata each by L.v. Beethoven, Chopin, and Schumann).
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 Bach or 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.
In January 2009, Gabriela Montero 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 Anthony McGill 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, Switzerland where she gave a seminar to a rapt audience on The Art of Improvisation. She was also invited to speak at the Cultural Leaders Dinner and The Power of Music Seminar.
Gabriela Montero’s 2011-2012 season includes 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 will also give 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.
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 a new work - ExPatria - for piano and orchestra. Her composition received its premiere performances in London and on tour in Germany with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields.
Gabriela Montero’s recordings include a solo disc featuring Sergei Rachmaninov, Chopin, and Franz Liszt (EMI/Angel). The release of her subsequent CD, “Bach and Beyond” (EMI/Angel, released in 2006), was a Billboard bestseller and introduced listeners to her unique blend of traditional concert repertoire and dazzling trademark improvisations. Her next album, Baroque, also pairing traditional fare with improvisation, garnered two Grammy nominations (for Best Classical Crossover Album and Best Producer). Montero returned to the studio in February 2010 to record her latest album, entitled “Solatino” - a disc dedicated to Latin American repertoire that is inspired by her Venezuelan homeland. 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 with her two daughters.