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Seen and Heard Recital Review

Einaudi: Ludovico Einaudi (Piano), Marco Decimo (Cello), Royal Festival Hall, 20th February, 2005 (H-T W)


The radio station Classic FM has one main aim: to bombard its listeners with so-called easy listening music, with famous movements from the concert and opera repertoire, and with music promotion. That is not everybody’s cup of tea and certainly not mine. But from time to time one misses out on composers who do not appear regularly anywhere else. Thanks to Classic FM the Polish composer Henryk Górecki rose to fame. Now, it seems to be the Italian Ludovico Einaudi, of whom I had not heard before this concert. Thanks to my wife, who is a frequent Classic FM listener and who has mentioned his name a bit too often, I became curious. His recital promoting his latest CD “una matta” (Decca 475 629-2) gave me the welcome opportunity to judge for myself.


I did not quite trust my eyes at first; it was quite astonishing to see a wide cross section of the English public filling the RFH to near capacity. On the other hand, a huge control-panel in the centre of the stalls, which turned out to be my neighbour and whose noisy cooling system always kept me in constant contact with reality, and a blue illuminated stage with microphones and loudspeakers, made me cautious. But whilst the evening was certainly entertainment, it was on a much higher, even fascinating level. Judging from this concert, Einaudi is quite a good pianist with an excellent posture and an intimate contact with his instrument – so why the microphones? The same counted for the cellist Marco Decimo, who joined him for the second half of the evening.


And what about his music? It is certainly neither minimal or in any way contemporary, more a culmination of the past, but in a thoroughly original idiom. It does not harm the ear, and is largely harmonic throughout, and foremost, in major keys. He does not like making his listeners feel uncomfortable. It sounds like improvisations on specific themes, where the various melodies are played mainly in the upper register, while the left hand provides a kind of bass line similar to baroque music. His constant harmonic changes without the slightest discord has some very distant similarity with Schubert, but to call him a Schubert of today, as has been done, is complete nonsense. He writes piano cycles, which are reminiscent of Bach’s “Inventions”, Schubert’s “Impromptus”, also of Schumann, Mendelssohn, even Chopin. He also evokes the sound of meditations for guitar from a very distant past. But he never imitates, it is always his own very dreamlike voice. What sounds so easy and pleasing, is in fact harmonically quite difficult.


In the first half, he introduced parts of his album “una mattina,” which also includes three pieces for cello and piano. “If someone asked me about this album, I would say it is a collection of songs linked together by a story…it speaks about me as I am now, my life, the things around me….” Its character is melancholic, while certain figurations and trills in the right hand are constantly repeated in various keys. There were moments when those trills sounded a little bit overused, and to finish most of these pieces with the relevant highest note on the piano seemed artificial.


The second half consisted of compositions, presumably more familiar since the audience responded more enthusiastically as he started to play. Here, the character of improvisations seemed even more relevant than before. In his program notes Einaudi wrote: “When I compose, I need to improvise, but also to mediate for a long time on what I am writing. I progress on two apparently antithetical levels: I create a great diversity of styles then, at a later stage, I review it all with a rational ear.”


There is no reason, to disqualify Einaudi’s music as banal or kitschy. His music is to a certain extent nostalgic, quite magical and well crafted. I understood perfectly well why he has so many followers, but I was also disappointed. Why the same thing does not count for the composers mentioned above I do not know. Their music has the same calming effect. Good music does not necessarily want to be understood, it asks to be listened to.


Hans-Theodor Wohlfahrt

 

 


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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)