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.
At a very geeky level this is an exciting Wigmore Hall concert, because this was our first concert of the 2011-2012 season, which was the first season that Wigmore Hall archived fully on-line.
So here is a link to the on-line archive page for this concert.
In truth, Brad Mehldau concerts tend to be a bit geeky anyway. The fellow has so many influences and blends so many styles in with his jazz piano, the concert is almost like a music quiz.
Back then, I was less fascinated by the mandolin than I am now at the time of writing (January 2018)…
…but I have long been intrigued by the instrument and it was very interesting to hear it used as a jazz pairing with Brad’s inimitable jazz piano style.
I think technically Brad was no longer the curator of the Wigmore Hall jazz seasons by the time this concert came around, although it might have been, technically, the tail end of his 2010/2011 commitment to the venue.
I seem to recall that I enjoyed this concert more than Janie did…
…I also seem to recall that we both felt that we had “done” Brad Mehldau now, this being the third of his we had been to, unless the concert works or partner musicians were the main attraction for us…
…but I relented four years later for the sake of Bach, much to our chagrin- click here or below:
Brad Mehldau, Wigmore Hall, 17 December 2015
But I slightly digress. This Thile/Mehldau concert in September 2011 was a goodie in my book.
We had actively encouraged “The Wig” to do more jazz, so booked up a couple of Brad Mehldau’s concerts when he was first appointed jazz curator.
We went to the first of these, Brad playing solo, back in April – click here.
We rather liked it and eagerly awaited the second concert, which was to be a trio with bass and drums, which we thought would be more to our taste.
Why we subsequently booked to see Brad solo again for stressy pre Christmas 2015, during which we vaguely remembered feeling that we anyway preferred seeing him with a group rather than solo, is a bit of a mystery to me – must have been the Bach link. My bad, as the young folk say.
Anyway, the Trio concert from 16 October 2009 is all explained in the sheet below.
This was one of two gigs that week at The Wig. The other gig was with the saxophonist Joshua Redman, whom we have subsequently seen at the Wigmore Hall. John Fordham in the Guardian gave both very good reviews – here.
Janie and I had encouraged the Wigmore Hall to bring in more jazz, so we felt almost duty bound to attend the first gig by a new curator of a jazz season, Brad Mehldau.
Even on an awkward Thursday evening.
Highly acclaimed, is Brad, and highly accomplished too.
This concert was Brad solo playing the piano – not as much to our taste as small ensembles. Perhaps not totally our style of jazz either, although we left the Wigmore Hall very much looking forward to seeing Brad and the rest of his trio in the autumn.