Renowned pianist Gabriela Montero has been awarded the 4th International Beethoven Award.

The €10,000 prize is presented by the Beethoven Academy to honour musicians for their advocacy and dedication to human rights, peace, freedom, inclusion and the war on poverty. Montero will receive the Dirk Wilhelm designed “Evolute” trophy during a gala concert featuring performances by Gabriela Montero herself; previous Beethoven Award winner Aeham Ahmad; baritone Aris Argiris; pianists Ahmad Ahmad, Margot Nisita, Luisa Imorde and Kai Schumacher; jazz icon Jocelyn B. Smith; cellist Christian Brunnert and more at the Budeskunsthalle, Bonn on 4 December, 2018.

Born in 1970, Gabriela Montero is one of the most respected and successful pianists of her generation. She is a powerful and eloquent advocate for the people of her native Venezuela, and works tirelessly to raise the world’s attention to the grave injustices suffered in her home nation. As well as the written and spoken word, she uses improvisation and composition as a powerful tool of creative dissent. Venezuela, once a rich and respected democracy, is today widely regarded as an autocracy, characterized by endemic corruption and violence. Hyperinflation and homicide rates are the highest on earth, and food and medical aid do not reach large portions of the population. It is estimated that almost 10 percent of the population has fled to neighbouring states in the past two years. Montero’s public profile does not offer her immunity from these circumstances, and she has grieved for many close friends, family members and colleagues who have lost their lives, livelihoods and homes due to this collapse.

“When something is so important to you, when you see so much human suffering, when it touches you to the bone, then it makes a warrior out of you. It makes you stand up and say: That is not right!”, she says.

Behind the scenes, Gabriela Montero helps many musicians who were originally supported by El Sistema. Designed as a flagship programme of support and education for musicians in Venezuela, El Sistema is now under the umbrella of a state ministry in the hands of President Maduro. In common with Venezuelan society at large, musicians have been left without the social and financial support required to survive. Not content with merely being a critic, Montero has actively raised money and awareness around the world to help those abandoned by the heavily propagandised program, positioning individual musicians in conservatories abroad where possible.

As a composer, Montero’s 2011 tone poem for piano and orchestra Ex Patria was dedicated to the 19,336 victims of homicide in the year of its composition. Both a personal lament and the collective protest of muted voices, it reveals a homeland ravaged by societal collapse.

She rejects the frequent call for artists to remain detached from political or humanitarian commentary: ”I am first and foremost a human being. I speak of human matters that are of profound importance to me. They should be of importance to everybody, regardless of profession.”