André Mehmari was born in Rio de Janeiro but is now a Paulista. The pianist, composer and scholar has built his Studio Monteverdi and equipped it with modern recording devises and a range of instruments – from the piano and organs, accordion, synthesizers, horns and much more – all of which he plays with extraordinary virtuosity. As a pianist Mr Mehmari has remarkable technique and a musical intellect to match. His fingerwork is so extraordinary that he is able to make notes leap off the page, imparting them an emotive life that any musician would envy. This does not necessarily qualify him to play the other instruments he plays with virtuosity. Yet somehow he does just that, which means he is much more than a musician who excels at the piano.
There is something much more impressive about Mr Mehmari and that is his ability to play in the tradition yet in doing so, somehow manages to transfuse innovation into it as he plays and interprets music. Listening to his music I can’t help believing that to him, tradition is a wonderful reality but he also understands that the inner dynamic of tradition is to innovate, or risk imprisonment in it. And so innovation within the tradition is an inseparable part of Mr Mehmari’s music. This is what has made his music so iconic, whether it is played featuring such magnificent vocal musicians such as Ná Ozzetti and Mônica Salmaso or prodigiously-gifted instrumental musicians such as Hamilton de Holanda, or with such prestigious ensembles such as the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Banda Mantiqueira and Orquestra Experimental de Repertório.
Mr Mehmari constantly positions himself in a creative conflict with age-old protocols about how a piano ought to be played and how it ought to work in communion with the human voice and with other instruments. Even when he is playing instruments conceived of and perfected hundreds of years ago and playing musical forms that have a very old and respected tradition he seems to actively throw overboard structural and harmonic hooks that have become expressively blunted through overuse. Having done just that he proceeds to build from what might – or might not – be left. This instinctive radicalism means that Mr Mehmari’s music – even to those who may not agree with it – is charged with endless wonder, its familiar melodies, sublime harmonies and agitatedly ticking rhythms re-form into new definitions of musical beauty.