Bach celebrated in glorious baroque concerts

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Tuesday March 14, 2017

From The San Diego Union-Tribune

Review: Bach celebrated in glorious baroque concerts
By: Christian Hertzog

It’s been a great week for local early music fans. They’re enjoying an unprecedented four-concert festival, ‘Sounds of the Baroque,’ involving three San Diego organizations.

The first three concerts were a Bachapalooza…

…Thursday’s solo recital by Mehldau illustrated Bach’s influence today. Mehldau proved a fine interpreter of Bach. His clear finger work with little pedaling suited selections from Bach’s ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’ and the dreamy ‘Allemande’ from the ‘Partita no. 4 in D major.’ He admirably brought out the counterpoint in two fugues.

Six Bach works alternated with Mehldau’s fully notated ‘Three Pieces After Bach’ and three improvisations. Each ‘Piece’ was performed after the Bach source material that inspired it. The piece which sounds most composed and least improvised is the ‘Rondo.’ Taking a figuration from the ‘Prelude no. 3 in C-sharp Major, BWV 848,’ Mehldau transformed it into a 5/16 groove whose energy never let down and whose invention continuously delighted.

Jazz improvisation is traditionally based on a song’s harmony, but Mehldau’s improvisations on Bach pieces explored melodic fragments, reworking and transmuting them. My favorite was his creation on the ‘Allemande.’ Two notes quietly sounded up and down the keyboard, filled out to fuller chords, and eventually transformed into oscillating sixteenths.

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