Oct 3, 2013
As the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra begins its fall season, its opening program features two composers well-known to lovers of European Art Music, and one well-known to lovers of Modern Jazz. Their program will feature Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, Eroica, but also pianist Brad Mehldau’s Variations for Piano and Orchestra on a Melancholy Theme for piano and chamber orchestra.
After establishing a reputation as one of America’s leading jazz pianists, Mehldau is now in demand for both his compositions and improvisational performances, and has toured and recorded extensively since the early 1990s as a collaborator, soloist, and as part of the Brad Mehldau Trio, which he formed in 1994. He has released several non-jazz recordings, including collaborations with singers Renée Fleming (Love Sublime) and Anne Sofie von Otter (Love Songs).
Perhaps Beethoven, Brahms, and Mehldau are not so different after all. All three made their names as hot-shot pianists before revealing their talents for composition, with Beethoven renowned for his improvisational skills. All three have reached into their musical environments for their composition, whether Brahms’ love of Hungarian dance music or Mehldau’s interpretations of the music of singer-songwriter Nick Drake. Mehldau, who draws inspiration from classical works in his jazz compositions and performances, says his Variations for Piano and Orchestra on a Melancholy Theme sounds “as if Brahms woke up one day and had the blues.”
I spoke about Mehldau and his collaboration with the Orpheus
Chamber Orchestra with Jonathan Spitz, a cellist in the
collaborative. Spitz is, among other credentials, the
cellist of the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra, principal cellist
of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Bard Festival
Orchestra, and a member of the Orpheus
Podcast 382 is our conversation, featuring a musical selection
from the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra:
Göran Söllscher: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra – “Allegro Gentile” from “Concierto De Aranjuez” from Rodrigo: Concierto De Aranjuez. We talked about classical compositions that have attracted jazz musicians, and this selection was a natural starting point, as Miles Davis, the Modern Jazz Quartet and Jim Hall, among others, have all recorded their versions of the Spanish composition.