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Ludovico EINAUDI (b. 1955)
Passagio - Einaudi by Lavinia
Divenire [6:34]
I giorni [5:51]
Oltremare [9:50]
Una mattina [2:44]
Le onde [4:14]
Dietro l'incanto [3:32]
Ora [6:07]
The Snow Prelude No. 15 [4:35]
Passaggio [4:16]
Nuvole bianche [5:05]
Due tramonti [4:28]
Lavinia Meijer (harp)
rec. 19-22 August 2013, Saal 1, Rundfunkzentrum Berlin, Germany
SONY CLASSICAL 88883 784082 [57:16]

If you go to one of those studios where unreformed hippies serve herbal tea, coo over the healing powers of crystals, sell a pill made out of Tibetan herbs to heal your lingering back pain, and use a private Room of Silence for contemplation and yoga, they will probably be playing this CD. The match between Ludovico Einaudi and the harp is perfect, too perfect: sappy, "inspirational" music founded on a repetitive sameness of mood, coupled with the ultimate easy-listening instrument. The result is an album so relaxing, peaceful, soothing and reassuring that my ears remained fully alert, my eyelids started drooping and my brain cells attempted mass suicide.

Einaudi is a quasi-minimalist, a little too free with his material to really be given the label. He is nevertheless a big fan of endless repetition. To tell you the truth, there are some very nicely written minutes of music here. A couple moments achieve actual emotional uplift, and signal a composer who knows how to tug heartstrings. I can't remember where they are. All eleven tracks are basically indistinguishable, and when I think about listening again to pinpoint the good parts, I wince in agony. A couple of tracks are also famous, and it's lucky that the booklet lists them, because how would you know otherwise? "Una mattina" was on the soundtrack to The Intouchables (2011), and it's the shortest track on the album. It's also the best. It sounds the same as the others, but it's shorter, and that makes it the best.

Lavinia Meijer is one of the world's greatest harpists. I am proud to own three of her earlier albums: Philip Glass selections, Visions and Fantasies and Impromptus. She has transcribed all the works herself, with the composer's approval. This music could not ask for a better performer. In fact, it probably could not bribe one.

Ludovico Einaudi is a very sincere composer. Unlike the painter Thomas Kinkade, Einaudi creates feel-good art out of a serious motivation to do so, and with the professional craftsmanship and skill required to pull it off. He's very good at what he does. He says, "I find that it is unfulfilling simply to write music for music's sake. Music has to move me emotionally and spiritually, and this is also true of the audiences I have in mind."

Many audiences have found that Einaudi's music moves them. I can't challenge that but I can't join them, either. Easy-listening, "new age" music focuses on one superficial, consoling kind of uplift because it cannot handle deeper emotions or problems. Einaudi is an ascetic, a musical monk denying himself - perhaps out of fear - the right to feel anything complicated.

Truly profound uplift in art demands conflict. More obviously, if you want to feel uplifted, you have to start down. All the most "inspirational" works of music also have great moments of pain, doubt, or loss, from Beethoven's Ninth to Mahler's Second, from Chopin's nocturnes to Strauss's Four Last Songs. The first draft of this review had about a dozen more examples listed. No doubt you can think of your own. How would you feel at the end of Casablanca if there hadn't been a war on? Who would watch Much Ado About Nothing if all that survived of it was the final dance?

This album is 57 minutes of continuous uplift. This imposes the physically impossible demand that you somehow keep feeling more and more consoled for an hour. Eventually, the sentient human rebels. Please, Mr. Einaudi, bring us darkness. Bring us sadness. Bring us wit, flirtation, despair, desperation, hopelessness, confusion, laughter, absurdity, longing, jealousy, impulsiveness, daring, calculation, fear, ecstasy, or eagerness. You need not capture them all; one or two would do. Art is the way that humans communicate with each other about the unspeakable realities of being alive, and easy-listening music is not about being alive. It is about stage-managing life to avoid any unpleasantness. It is a solution which denies the existence of a problem. It is the senseless imposition of one single mood on listeners who are capable of feeling an infinity of moods. For some people, it no doubt provides a comfort, something predictable in a troubled world. For the rest of us, Ludovico Einaudi's music offers a generic uplift that's inferior to the real thing, and clueless as to why we might ever need it. This is not music to heal wounds; it is music to pretend wounds do not exist. This music is numbing, insulting and delusional.

Brian Reinhart