Mehldau

COMPOSERS: Mehldau
LABELS: Nonesuch
ALBUM TITLE: Mehldau
WORKS: Love Sublime; Songs from The Book of Hours; Songs from The Blue Estuaries
PERFORMER: Renee Fleming (soprano)Brad Mehldau (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 7559 799 522
Mehldau emerged as an imaginative sideman with various big-name jazz musicians, but for 12 years has led a highly-regarded trio of his own. He has also proved a responsive partner in instrumental duos, but these duets are quite different. Whilst informed by an improviser’s sensibilities, everything here is fully-composed or, on the title song, well-prepared if not entirely written.

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Mehldau draws on Louise Bogan’s Blue Estuaries poems and Rilke’s Love Poems to God, although the text of that title track is by his wife, singer-lyricist Fleurine. His settings capture the sense of Rilke’s spiritual solitude and existential dread, transfixing the poet’s struggle with belief in a steely light that illuminates his final declaration of faith as clearly as his doubts and fears. Bogan’s language is less stark, her forms more obviously musical, but her meditations on existence no less deep and inspiring to Mehldau.

Some of the most striking effects are achieved with bleak, chiming chords, evoking Messiaen, but Mehldau parallels the poets’ most involved images with passages of close-packed counterpoint and dense chording. Love Sublime brings the recital to a warm, lyrical close. Fleming’s clarity and strength

meet the challenges of Mehladau’s varied and stimulating writing in

an impressive partnership.

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Barry Witherden