Love Sublime

Love Sublime

by Brad Mehldau
     
 
Opera star Renée Fleming and jazz pianist Brad Mehldau have more in common than one might expect. Fleming ventured into sultry jazz singing on the recent Haunted Heart, and Mehldau often traffics in the classics, in addition to his jazz work (the Mehldau Trio's House on a Hill was released concurrently with this disc). Here

Overview

Opera star Renée Fleming and jazz pianist Brad Mehldau have more in common than one might expect. Fleming ventured into sultry jazz singing on the recent Haunted Heart, and Mehldau often traffics in the classics, in addition to his jazz work (the Mehldau Trio's House on a Hill was released concurrently with this disc). Here, however, both assume their classical guises; in fact, Mehldau composed these songs expressly for Fleming, helped along by a commission from Carnegie Hall. Seven of them are based on early poems of Rainer Maria Rilke; three further ones set texts from the American poet Louise Bogan (whose work Fleming introduced to Mehldau); and the title track offers lyrics by Mehldau's wife, Fleurine. Mehldau's accompaniment imaginatively combines elements from Bill Evans (one of his jazz heroes) with a style anchored in the work of 20th-century classical masters like Messiaen. Some songs subtly call on popular-music influences: the syncopated rhythmic strumming of "I Love the Dark Hours of My Being," for instance, or the snippets of melody seemingly borrowed from spirituals in "No One Lives His Life." Still, Fleming invests the music with the same disciplined intensity she would devote to Schubert or Strauss, and while her somewhat inflexible delivery isn't likely to convince many jazz lovers to cross over to her classical work, her many devotees will admire the vocal control and nuanced expression she brings to Mehldau's intriguing songs.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Richard S. Ginell
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.
New York Times - Nate Chinen
[Love Sublime] succeeds handsomely as a showcase for Ms. Fleming, and as an example of Mr. Mehldau's deft calibration of pretense and personality.
Gramophone - Andrew Farach-Colton
Fleming sings with plush tone and deep feeling.... As for Mehldau, his playing is simply brilliant.

Product Details

Release Date:
06/27/2006
Label:
Nonesuch
UPC:
0075597995220
catalogNumber:
79952
Rank:
96515

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