Last night, Easton’s Prager Family Center for the Arts held a concert featuring Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero, violinist Joshua Bell, and soprano Larisa Martinez. It was, in short, magic. The featured musicians were at the top of their game. The program was eclectic and charming. The acoustics were superb. I felt privileged to be in attendance.
During one introduction to the selected program, Joshua Bell mentioned that he had never played in a venue quite like this one. It reminded him of the salons of days gone by. He is right. It is a unique experience to be so close to the artists in an environment with such amazing sound quality.
Gabriela Montero is a renowned pianist who gave her first concert when she was only five years old. She has performed at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, as well as concert halls in Munich, Berlin, Bern, Amsterdam and other venues across the globe. Montero sometimes introduces improvisations into standard classical pieces, a practice that Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart also incorporated into their concerts. Montero also has composed many original compositions and released several albums. Her 2015 album won her the Latin Grammy award for best classical album. Her mastery of the eclectic pieces played on Saturday evening was pure perfection.
On Saturday’s performance, Joshua Bell was not front and center, as the concert truly showcased his wife, soprano Larisa Martinez. But, as usual, he did not disappoint. Bell made his Carnegie debut at the age of 17. His instrument is the Gibson ex Huberman, a Stradivarius made in 1713 during the Stradivari’s Golden Era. The violin was stolen twice and is the subject of a documentary The Return of the Violin. Bell, considered one of the greatest violinists of all time, has won numerous awards and has produced albums featuring Brahms, Prokofiev, Gershwin, Bernstein, Vivaldi, Mendelssohn and many more.
In 2019, Puerto Rican-born soprano Larisa Martinez made both her Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall debuts—the same year she married Bell. Martinez appeared in her first opera when she was 19 as the shepherd in the third act of Tosca. She studied vocal performance at the Conservatory of Music in Puerto Rico and obtained her master’s degree from the Mannes School of Music in New York City. Martinez has performed in New York and other operatic stages in the United States and Europe. In recent years, she has performed with Andrea Bocelli where she typically sings one aria and then joins the tenor in four operatic duets.
Saturday’s program at the Prager included works by Mendelssohn, Schubert, Chopin, and Bernstein, as well as some Spanish and Puerto Rican pieces. The standouts of the evening were the Chopin Sarasate I Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2, and the concluding Bernstein West Side Story suite with outstanding performances by Montero, Bell and Martinez.
Easton owes a debt of gratitude to the Prager Family for bringing these amazing artists to a truly outstanding venue. Thank you.
Maria Grant was principal-in-charge of a federal human capital practice at an international consulting firm. While on the Eastern Shore, she focuses on writing, reading, piano, gardening, and nature.