Skip directly to content
Browse by:

Enjoy This Post?

Share This Post

Brad Mehldau’s 'Variations on a Melancholy Theme,' with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Out Now on Nonesuch

Browse by:
nonesuch's picture
on June 11, 2021 - 9:30am
Article Type: 
Publish date: 
Friday, June 11, 2021 - 09:30

Brad Mehldau’s Variations on a Melancholy Theme is out now. The recording features the pianist/composer and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, which commissioned this orchestral version of the work—a theme and eleven variations plus a cadenza and postlude. The album also includes an encore, “Variations ‘X’ and ‘Y.'" "I imagine it as if Brahms woke up one day and had the blues," Mehldau says of the piece, which combines the classical form with jazz harmonies. "While the theme evokes melancholy, I let it be used as a springboard for other happy, wild, violent, and reckless emotions as the variations progress." You can watch a video for Variation 4 here.


Brad Mehldau’s Variations on a Melancholy Theme is out now on Nonesuch Records, avaialble everywhere here. The recording features the pianist/composer and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, which commissioned this orchestral version of the work, which comprises a theme and eleven variations plus a cadenza and postlude; the album also includes an encore, “Variations ‘X’ and ‘Y.’” Also out today is a video with Variation 4, which you can watch below. (Mehldau originally composed Variations on a Melancholy Theme for pianist Kirill Gerstein.) Mehldau and Orpheus toured Europe, Russia, and the US with the piece, including a 2013 performance at Carnegie Hall. Mehldau has several solo tour dates and shows with the Brad Mehldau Trio in Europe this summer; see below for details and tickets, or visit

Speaking to the combination of classical form with jazz harmonies in the work’s musical language, Mehldau wrote, “I imagine it as if Brahms woke up one day and had the blues.” He continues, “The theme itself has a wistful character, perhaps a feeling of resignation. There is some sense of finality and ending to it when heard for the first time already. So as I composed, a narrative challenge emerged; namely, how to embark on a story that begins with a conclusion. While the theme evokes melancholy, I let it be used as a springboard for other happy, wild, violent, and reckless emotions as the variations progress.”

Brad Mehldau’s Nonesuch debut was the 2004 solo disc Live in Tokyo. His subsequent releases on the label include seven records with his trio (House on Hill, Day Is Done, Brad Mehldau Trio Live, Ode, Where Do You StartBlues and Ballads, and Seymour Reads the Constitution!); collaborative albums (Love Sublime, Highway Rider, Metheny Mehldau, Metheny Mehldau Quartet, Modern Music, Mehliana: Taming the Dragon, Nearness with Joshua Redman, Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau, RoundAgain, and the Grammy Award–winning Finding Gabriel), and further solo albums (Live in Marciac; the eight-LP/four-CD 10 Years Solo Live, which the New York Times says “contains some of the most impressive pianism he has captured on record;” After Bach; and the album he recorded during COVID-19 lockdown, Suite: April 2020, from which a majority of the proceeds went to Jazz Foundation of America’s COVID-19 Musician’s Emergency Fund).

In 1972, a group of young artists made history by creating an orchestra without a conductor in which musicians led themselves democratically. Since then, the Grammy Award-winning Orpheus Chamber Orchestra has recorded over 70 albums on all major classical labels—including several with pianist Richard Goode for Nonesuch—toured to 46 countries across four continents, and collaborated with hundreds of world-class soloists. Orpheus’ thirty-four member musicians work together as a collective and rotate leadership roles for all works performed, giving flight to unconventional interpretations. This democratic structure also extends to organizational functions including programming and governance: the orchestra elects three members to Artistic Director positions and three to the Board of Trustees.


Jun 29 Jazz à Vienne Vienne, FRANCE
Jun 30 Théâtre de Longjumeau Longjumeau, FRANCE
Jul 2 Domaine de Fontblanche Vitrolles, FRANCE
Jul 4 Spoleto Festival dei Due Mondi Spoleto, ITALY
Jul 6 Vicenza Jazz Vicenza, ITALY
Jul 8 Festival da Jazz St. Moritz St. Moritz, SWITZERLAND
Jul 12 Teatro Comunale di Carpi* Carpi, ITALY
Jul 14 Umbria Jazz Festival* Perugia, ITALY
Jul 15 Nice Jazz Festival* Nice, FRANCE
Jul 18 Monfort Jazz* Monforte d'Alba, ITALY
Jul 19 Grado Jazz* Grado, ITALY
Jul 20 Jazz à Sète* Sète, FRANCE
Jul 22 Centro Cultural de Belém* Lisbon, PORTUGAL
Jul 23 Festival Internacional de Jazz de Peníscola* Peníscola, SPAIN
Jul 25 Festival de Jazz de San Sebastián* Donostia, SPAIN
Jul 27 Jazz in Marciac* Marciac, FRANCE
Jul 30 Cosmo Jazz Festival* Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, FRANCE

*w/Brad Mehldau Trio

Brad Mehldau: 'Variations on a Melancholy Theme' [cover w]

Related Posts

  • Tuesday, June 21, 2022
    Tuesday, June 21, 2022

    In These Times, the new album by percussionist, producer, and composer Makaya McCraven, is due September 23. It has been in process since 2015 and is the album McCraven’s been trying to make since he started making records, an appropriately career-defining body of work. The eleven-song suite was created over seven-plus years, as McCraven strived to fuse odd-meter compositions from his working songbook with orchestral, large-ensemble arrangements and the edit-heavy “organic beat music” he’s honed over the years. With contributions from over a dozen musicians and creative partners from his tight-knit circle of collaborators—including Jeff Parker, Junius Paul, Brandee Younger, Joel Ross, and Marquis Hill—In These Times highlights McCraven’s unique gift for collapsing space, destroying borders, and blending past, present, and future into poly-textural arrangements of post-genre, jazz-rooted 21st-century folk music.

    Journal Topics: Album ReleaseArtist News
  • Friday, June 17, 2022
    Friday, June 17, 2022

    Brad Mehldau’s new album, Jacob’s Ladder, first released on CD and digital in March, is now available in a double vinyl set. The album features new music that reflects on scripture and the search for God through music inspired by the prog rock he loved as a young adolescent—his gateway to the fusion that eventually led to his discovery of jazz. Featured musicians on the album include label mates Chris Thile and Cécile McLorin Salvant, as well as Mark Guiliana, Becca Stevens, Joel Frahm, and others. Mojo calls it "a kaleidoscopic affair, where baroque prog-rock edifices are juxtaposed with clouds of ethereal choirs, dreamy piano interludes, and squalls of free jazz-style clarinet. Skillfully weaving these elements into storytelling sound collages, Mehldau takes the listener on a memorable musical journey."

    Journal Topics: Album ReleaseArtist News
[{"parent":{"title":"Get on the list !","body":" Get exclusive information about NONESUCH tour dates, video premieres and special announcements ","field_newsletter_id":"14075483","field_label_list_id":"6389157","field_display_rates":"-1","field_preview_mode":"false","field_lbox_height":"","field_lbox_width":"","field_toaster_timeout":"16000","field_toaster_position":"From Bottom","field_turnkey_height":"800"}}]

Performs On