Brad Mehldau was avowedly influenced by Franz Schubert, but other “classical” composers also fascinate him: “In recent years I’m increasingly playing Bach and Brahms. That’s music that can fill you up all your life. You learn to work out different voices; you develop your technique, your sightreading skills – you can practice everything with it.”
If you click around the American jazz pianist and composer’s website or immerse yourself in his long booklet texts, you also come across extensive reflections on intellectual history – from Goethe to Sigmund Freud to Rilke and Thomas Mann. Literature – besides jazz – is Mehldau’s second passion because for him it is closely connected with music: “In German there’s the word ‘Sehnsucht’ which is only inadequately translated with the English word ‘longing’. Mann’s writing has something of this feeling, which I also think has a lot to do with music. This is not ‘Sehnsucht’ as it is conventionally understood, but more a state we’re born into.” And he continues: “If you are willing to truly follow someone in his text, it’s like attentive listening.”
Of course, Brad Mehldau has intensively grappled with those genres that combine his two favourite arts – music and literature. Together with the British tenor Ian Bostridge he is now presenting a new composition for voice and piano – as well as a Schumann’s Dichterliebe.