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Love Sublime

Album Summary

>Mehldau, Brad : The Book of Hours
>Mehldau, Brad : The Blue Estuaries, for voice & piano
>Mehldau, Brad : Love Sublime, song (after tune Paris)
Performers Composer

Notes & Reviews:

This collaboration between jazz pianist and concert soprano was originally sparked by the New York City-based soprano Rene Fleming, an admirer of Brad Mehldau. "Love Sublime" is a pseudo song cycle combining the work of two writers into a seamless whole that addresses faith and doubt, youth and aging, male and female, romantic yearning and mature reflection. "Love Sublime" is not a 'jazz record'; Fleming joked to the Christian Science Monitor that Mehldau "has crossed over to my world." While this album will surely appeal to follows of contemporary classical music and Fleming's own prestigious career, it will also prove exciting to fans of Mehldau's solo work.

A collection of duets for voice and piano, Love Sublime is based on the writings of poets Rainer Maria Rilke and Louise Bogan and addresses faith and doubt, youth and aging, male and female, romantic yearning and mature reflection. The voices of the writers are very much present in the melodies and rhythms of Love Sublime.

Notes & Reviews:

Personnel: Brad Mehldau (piano); Brad Mehldau; Renée Fleming (vocals, soprano).

Recording information: SUNY Purchase Performing Arts Center, Purchase, NY.

If you think jazz is becoming an endangered art form chained to its past, that's nothing compared to the present condition of classical art song, which is almost extinct in concert halls, sustained mostly by star singers taking a break from opera. Nevertheless, pianist/composer Brad Mehldau treads where very, very few jazzmen have bothered to go before, composing a pair of classical song cycles for the esteemed, front-rank soprano Renée Fleming. No kidding. And he does it strictly in European classical terms; with no jazz, no hints of improvisation except in the title song, everything written out just as Schubert, Schumann, Mahler, Mehldau's idol Brahms, and other classical masters did before him. Rainer Maria Rilke's philosophical poems form the texts for Mehldau's "Songs from The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God," a grand seven-song cycle lasting over a half-hour. It speaks well for Mehldau's taste that these are far better texts than you often encounter in lieder, rooted in solitude, questioning man's relationship to God. His responses to the texts are thoughtful and varied in texture, ranging from the daringly simple, spare, stabbing progression of chords as an accompaniment to "Your First Word Was Light" to quasi-symphonic passages in others. The shorter, three-song "Songs from The Blue Estuaries," with texts by Louise Bogan, has a more ambiguous, turbulent texture, just teetering on this side of tonality. Oddly enough, the only piece that does not use a completely written-out score, "Love Sublime" (a reworking of Mehldau's instrumental "Paris"), is the song that pays closest homage to Mehldau's classical heroes, Wagner's modulations in particular, and Fleming is given the most latitude in phrasing here as well. Fleming's voice seems to have thickened as of this session, and her overall interpretive outlook remains cool, dignified and detached, while pouring forth seamless streams of polished, steady sound. "I Love You, Gentlest of Ways" (from "First Word") contains long passages of sustained, exposed vocal lines with no place to hide, which doesn't bother Fleming in the least. Throughout Love Sublime, Mehldau aims high -- he takes his task very seriously, and he has the tools for it -- although you don' quite hear a striking individual signature yet. ~ Richard S. Ginell

REVIEWS:

JazzTimes (p.83) - "The vocals, doubtless, are virtuosic, and quite gutting too..."



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Works Details

>Mehldau, Brad : The Book of Hours :: Love Poems to God, for voice & piano
  • Performers: Renée Fleming (Soprano); Brad Mehldau (Piano)
  • Running Time: 32 min. 50 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary

>Mehldau, Brad : The Blue Estuaries, for voice & piano
  • Performers: Renée Fleming (Soprano); Brad Mehldau (Piano)
  • Running Time: 10 min. 29 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary

>Mehldau, Brad : Love Sublime, song (after tune Paris)
  • Performers: Renée Fleming (Soprano); Brad Mehldau (Piano)
  • Running Time: 4 min. 20 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary