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Spot-on at creating on the spot

Gabriela Montero has a gift for improvising, be it Bach, soap opera themes, pop tunes or nursery rhymes. She even takes audience suggestions.

August 26, 2007|Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

It's like a domino effect, she says. "One note begins and the rest follow. I'm never afraid of it. It's just heaven. To be able to walk out onstage and not know what's going to happen, to just create it at that moment, it's wonderful." She laughs. "And I don't have to worry about practicing anything."

Montero's ideal concert would be a throwback to the salon concerts of past centuries, intimate gatherings for music-making. "It was really about a kind of communion together. I feel in a lot of my concerts, this is what starts to happen. And this is what I love."

Conductor Thomas Wilkins, who will lead the Bowl's Tchaikovsky event, feels that Montero "is the kind of artist that the classical music world is clamoring for." By reaching out to those who aren't hard-core classical fans, he says, "she breaks down the formality that is a disguise for a brick wall between the audience and the artist."

Not that Montero stints when playing another composer's work. She likens Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto to "a big animal, a big bear that at any moment can eat you up, but at the same time there's these great moments of beauty and fairy dust. It's like an incredibly poetic scenery of mythical characters."

Whether improvising or interpreting a written piece, however, "I like to get in there and dive in and leave my heart and everything on the stage," Montero says. "That's the only reason that I have found meaning and truth and value in what I'm doing now." And that will be her quest always, she says: "to go deeper and deeper in music and in myself as a musician."

lynne.heffley@latimes.com

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Los Angeles Philharmonic

Where: Hollywood Bowl,

2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood

When: 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Price: $7 to $111

Contact: (213) 480-3232 or www.hollywoodbowl.com

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