Brad Mehldau, Wigmore Hall, 17 December 2015

What in the name of Jove possessed me to book a concert at the Wigmore Hall on the last Thursday before Christmas?  Surely I knew that, despite all the plans to work less, Janie would be up to her eyes in overwork, running late and all the related stress that brings.

At 18:57, when she still hadn’t got to the flat, I really thought we were in trouble. But then she arrived and good fortune got us to a single yellow line (parking therefore permitted) within striking distance of the hall within striking distance of the appointed hour.  Even time to order interval drinks – just!

This was the gig – click here.  Actually that doesn’t explain it very well.  Brad has been commissioned to write a three piece programme inspired by The Well-Tempered Clavier.  the centrepiece of the performance was Brad playing the Well-Tempered movements that inspired him followed by the commissioned pieces.

The programme explains it better (see below).  But even that doesn’t fill you in on the other stuff he played:

  • An improvisation before the interval inspired by the C major Prelude
  • An improvisation after the third commissioned piece, based on the G major Allemande (Brad omitted to say where this came from – unlike the others, clearly not the Well-Tempered – I think it must be the slightly earlier G Major Partita – perhaps he expected us all simply to know)
  • An improvisation following the F minor Prelude and Fugue
  • An improvisation following the E flat major Prelude, the improvisation also being a variation on Martha My Dear
  • An improvisation around Pinball Wizard, with no Bach in sight.

Anyway, Janie found it all a bit scholarly, but the chance of Janie being well-tempered about anything, least of all a clavier, was always going to be low at the end of such a day.  In truth, I found Brad’s “straight” playing of the Bach rather wooden, almost as if he couldn’t bear to “swing it at all” when playing the actual piece, so that the jazz variation would come to the fore.  In reality, Bach masters swing it quite a bit on the keyboard stuff.  I liked the commissioned works and the first three of the improvisations; less so the Martha and Pinball ones.

There was a heavy mee-jah presence in the hall, so Brad is clearly perceived to be a jazz master worth seeing by the cognoscenti still.  I would have enjoyed it more on a Saturday night in January, though.  Fighting through the after-work Christmas shoppers does not set us up ideally for a evening of Bach, jazz, jazz-Bach or Bach-jazz.

Brad 17 December 2015

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