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18 April 2018

Brad Mehldau - far more than just the piano

von Charlotte Brouard-Tartarin

Welcoming Brad Mehldau as Artist in residence is like raising the curtain on the career of a unique  musician and seeking to fathom its mystery – at least for the duration of this handful of concerts. The  American pianist is incontestably mysterious: in the course of almost thirty years he has revealed himself almost exclusively through music.

His music is that of an artist both inquisitive and demanding, a musician whose first notable  appearance was in the mid-1990s, when he performed alongside the saxophonist Joshua Redman.  Since then he has been active in many different fields, working not only with classical artists and  ensembles such as Anne Sofie von Otter and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra but also with some of  the great names in the world of jazz such as Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden and Wayne Shorter. He has  also accompanied silent films and undertaken projects with his trio, the other members of which are the double bass player Larry Grenadier and the drummer Jeff Ballard. To his long list of recordings he has recently added two more albums, the first with the mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile, the second for  solo piano is inspired by Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier.

A single word seems to characterize all of these projects: excellence. But with Brad Mehldau this  excellence is far from being synonymous with remoteness from the audience for, according to  numerous media and attendance figures at his concerts, he is one of those rare artists on the jazz scene who is capable of reaching a large audience not limited to lovers of the genre.

«Brad Mehldau has made a name for himself as a composer, musician and improviser, pushing back and blurring the boundaries between such artificial categories as classical music and jazz and between music that is composed and music that is improvised. Mehldau does all of these things at once.» (BBC)

Brad Mehldau | photo: Michael Wilson Brad Mehldau | photo: Michael Wilson

Brad Mehldau’s residency at the Philharmonie Luxembourg is a reflection of this multitalented artist’s gifts and sets out to showcase the diversity of his talents over three concerts. His first appearance this season will be with tenor Ian Bostridge and will reveal an astonishing partnership. Mehldau and the English singer first met in 2015 and quite apart from their mutual admiration they discovered numerous  musical affinities. The outcome of this encounter is a cycle of songs written by the pianist. Working closely with Bostridge, Mehldau sets out in this cycle to explore the complex and tortuous nature of human desire.

Brad Mehldau’s second concert sees him appearing again both as a performer and as a composer but  this time with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg under the direction of Clark Rundell. The  focus of  the programme will be on his new work for piano and orchestra, a piece co-commissioned by Philharmonie  Luxembourg. His final appearance of the 2018/19 season will be a jazz concert with his longstanding trio.

Whether you are familiar with his work or are preparing to get to know it for the first time, the only requirement for appreciating Brad Mehldau is a love of good music. It’s as simple as that.