INTERVIEW: Anne Sophie von Otter on Brad Mehldau

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Thursday October 21, 2010

From the Telegraph

Anne Sophie von Otter talks to Adam Sweeting about the surprising mix of styles on her new album with pianist Brad Mehldau
Adam Sweeting

The modern classical singer must wear many hats. I meet Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, where she’s preparing to sing Brangäne in Bill Viola’s video-assisted concert production of Tristan und Isolde, but the subject of our discussion is her new album, Love Songs.

It’s a project von Otter has undertaken with pianist Brad Mehldau, and if I was John Motson I’d feel forced to describe it as a game of two halves. Disc one comprises Mehldau’s settings of poems by e’‰e cummings, Philip Larkin and Sara Teasdale. These stand in stark contrast to the popular songs on the album’s second disc, from a range of songwriters including Joni Mitchell, Jacques Brel, Michel Legrand and Richard Rodgers.

‘I’d heard Brad on the radio, and thought he was a pianist I’d love to perform with,’ says von Otter. ‘Then Carnegie Hall wanted me to do a recital with [pianist] Bengt Forsberg, and I had the idea of asking Brad if he’d like to join in for the second half. Within a few hours it had been arranged.’

Mehldau, a formidably accomplished musician adept in popular, classical and jazz idioms, was familiar with von Otter’s work, and she in turn had been intrigued by the Love Sublime album he’d made with soprano Renée Fleming, which consisted of Mehldau’s treatments of Rilke poems. Carnegie Hall set the ball rolling by commissioning him to compose a set of songs for von Otter. ‘Brad was aiming for something of the same type as he’d done with Renée, with very rich and interesting piano parts,’ she says.

Read the entire interview here