Brad Mehldau’s latest album is called Variations on a Melancholy Theme and features the pianist and composer performing with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

Combining classical form and jazz harmonization, the album comprises a theme and 11 variations, followed by a cadenza, a postlude and an encore.

“I imagine it as if Brahms woke up one day and had the blues,” Mehldau says. “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.”