The many shades of Mason Gross musician Cristina Pato

The many shades of Mason Gross musician Cristina Pato

The many shades of Mason Gross musician Cristina Pato

Credit: Juan Padrón

Mason Gross School doctoral student Cristina Pato will play her beloved gaita this summer at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart festival following a concert tour of Spain, Scotland, and France.

At the roots, Cristina Pato’s hair is deep brown and straight;
the bold green curls begin around her cheekbones and extend to the middle of
her back. Her colors as a
musician are equally rich, contrasting, and unexpected.

At home in Galicia, Spain, she is known for both her
classical music on the piano and her popular folk music on the gaita, or
Galician bagpipe. At Mason Gross School of the Arts, she is a second-year
doctor of musical arts candidate in collaborative piano.

As disparate as her classical and popular music pursuits
might seem, it was a piano performance at Rutgers that led to her Carnegie Hall
debut as a bagpiper, performing alongside cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble
in a new work by Osvaldo Golijov.

Her journey to the coveted stage of New York’s Carnegie Hall
began in March 2006, when the eminent Argentinian composer came to Rutgers for
a discussion and concert of his music. Select Mason Gross music students, Pato
among them, performed in the program. One of the pieces was “Lúa Descolorida”
for piano and soprano, the text of which is from a poem by Rosalía de Castro,
one of the most important Galician poets of the 19th century.

“Because of my curiosity about why he chose a poem by
Rosalía [a Spaniard], being from Argentina, the conversation about Galicia
started,” Pato said.

The conversation about Galicia led to talk about the gaita,
which led to Pato giving Golijov a copy of her demo. The following month, Golijov
invited Pato to play “Lúa Descolorida” and “Levante” for piano solo in a public
recital at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he
is associate professor of music. He requested that she bring the bagpipe along to
introduce the instrument to the audience.

He called again in September, asking her to give a lecture
on the gaita at a workshop presented by the Silk Road Project in Tanglewood,
Massachusetts. The project, whose artistic director is cellist Yo-Yo Ma, is a
musical collaboration that celebrates the various cultures associated with
ancient Eurasian trade routes. After the lecture, an impromptu jam session
ensued, and Pato found herself playing her beloved gaita alongside Yo-Yo Ma and
members of the Silk Road Ensemble.

Golijov, who had been developing a work with the ensemble,
was so inspired by the improvisation that he decided to start over with a new
work to include arrangements for the bagpipe. He asked Pato to perform the new
work with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble at Tanglewood, followed by four
concerts at Carnegie Hall, the following week.

And, of course, Pato said yes. “That week was crazy,” she
recalled, “because I had come back from Spain with the idea of putting the
bagpipe in the closet and getting back to the piano.”

In advance of the Carnegie Hall concert, a story about Pato
appeared on the front page of The New
York Times’
arts section. “If you have never thought of the bagpipe as a
particularly sensuous instrument (and who has?), Ms. Pato will amaze you,”
wrote James Oestrich. “Her playing dismisses any notion of a square, martial
quality, infusing almost constant exotic coloration, finding entire ranges of
microtones between pitches and bending one into another.”

The collaboration has been so fruitful that Golijov asked
Pato to play this summer at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, for which
he is the first composer-in-residence. The timing couldn’t be better for Pato, whose
10th anniversary as a soloist coincides with her 27th birthday in August. The anniversary
celebration will begin in March with the release of a live CD/DVD of a concert
she performed with her old band, Mutenrohi, last summer. In May, she will give
a concert tour of Spain, Scotland, and France.

While her studies at Rutgers are her priority right now,
Pato continues to record for her Spanish label, Zouma Records, in her spare
time. In October, she released an album of piano and vocals entitled Desde Rusia hasta Brasil (From Russia to Brazil), recorded over
the summer with Patrice Jegou, a doctor of musical arts candidate in voice at Mason
Gross. Pato spent her recent winter break in Lisbon and Madrid, composing and
recording music on the bagpipe and other regional instruments for the Spanish
movie El Hombre de Arena.

Despite her early success, Pato said she has much to learn
from her teacher at Mason Gross, Associate Professor Barbara González-Palmer. “She
has a kind of thinking about not only the music, but the poetry, and that you
are not an accompanist, but a collaborator,” said Pato. “The way she teaches
and the way I learn from her is really what brought me here.”