American Brad Mehldau gives a recital titled “Three Pieces After Bach” and receives a terrific review.
Over the two decades since his star ascended, American pianist Brad Mehldau has been cutting a path – often introspective, virtuosic and indifferent to populist antics – that could have led him to jazz’s crowded unsung-genius shelf. But as conversations between jazz, classical music and pop have grown ever more fluent, Mehldau’s eclecticism has turned him into a major star. He rammed the reasons home this week in an unaccompanied performance split between respectfully straight recitals of several JS Bach classics, and densely dazzling compositions and improvisations inspired by them. The show was a new venture for him called Three Pieces After Bach, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall, Wigmore and others.
A relaxed, cowboy-shirted Mehldau opened with the G minor Fugue No 16 expressed through more dynamic swerves and percussive chord work than a Bach purist might favour, but as the gig progressed, the pianist cherished the original subjects of these pieces with a growing clarity. The C major Prelude from Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2 led him toward a deep rhythmic thunder built out of the source’s serene pulse, then a turmoil of interwoven melodies and hints of blues.