'Variations on a Melancholy' Theme Review

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Wednesday August 11, 2021

From London Jazz News

Brad Mehldau and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra ‘” ‘Variations on a Melancholy Theme’

Imagine if Brahms woke up one day and had the blues, Brad Mehldau speculated about his Variations on a Melancholy Theme. This orchestral work does indeed follow in Brahms’ footsteps ‘” it is supremely romantic and harmoniously lyrical, 35 deeply satisfying minutes with more than enough bluesy piano to reward jazz fans, and defying classification as classical or jazz ‘” it’s both. Just as Brahms evokes an emotional response by weaving grief, sweetness and anxiety in his Three Intermezzi for Piano Op. 117 (one of his final works), this recent release by Mehldau explores melancholy in its many manifestations using the classical form with jazz harmonies. It follows in the steps of his earlier orchestral works which started with his Brady Bunch Variations for piano and orchestra in 2007, the jazz/classical/rock Highway Rider in 2010 and more recently his Piano Concerto in 2018.

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