mon 24/06/2024

Ludovico Einaudi, Barbican review - a long road to nowhere | reviews, news & interviews

Ludovico Einaudi, Barbican review - a long road to nowhere

Ludovico Einaudi, Barbican review - a long road to nowhere

Seven Days Walking provides a journey through unremarkable terrain

Einaudi: a small talent

There is a video, part of Greenpeace’s laudable Save The Arctic Campaign, in which Ludovico Einaudi sits at a Steinway atop a small ice flow performing his Elegy for the Arctic. As he plays a descending scale, the camera pans slightly to the right just in time to see a chunk of glacier break away and crash into the sea. Perfect timing!

The pianist-composer presumably needed to quickly warm up his hands after his performance, which was observed by a seal, and it would be interesting to know what treatment the piano required – humidity is the everyday enemy of pianos but they do not take kindly to extremes of temperature. It’s a novel idea though I imagine many people thought it a crazy stunt and the insurance underwriters surely had pause for thought. The composer wouldn’t long survive submersion in the water but the piano would presumably have sunk without trace in an instant. That would have been a waste of a good Steinway.

Einaudi was well defrosted by the time he hit London last night to open his week-long residency at the Barbican, there to perform excerpts from his Seven Days Walking suite of variations for piano, violin and cello, each “day” or episode released on an individual CD with a box set due in the autumn. The announcement of the new piece coincided with the news that Decca, with whom he has worked for 15 years, had signed a new global contract with Einuadi, “an artist with a uniquely global footprint whose music continues to grow a dedicated and dynamic audience”.

Certainly Barbican Hall was filled to capacity, the audience overwhelmingly under 50, with many in their twenties. They sat rapt, cheering to the echo at a couple of points during the performance, and calling out their appreciation at the end as they gave an ovation. The young guy next to me had a tear on his cheek. I’m just not sure what for.

Einaudi and cellist Redi Hasa and violinist Federico Mecozzi each looked as though they’d been kitted out at Muji, dark jeans and T-shirts, jackets and trainers. We are so cool. A light show played behind them: dancing colours here, geometric patterns there, a sunset…. Directly behind me, several guys on the mixing desk seemed to be taking instructions through leaky headphones. Then aircon whirred. Or maybe it was part of the sound collage?

As always there were some nice sonorities produced by the composer from (I think) an acoustic Steinway that was miked. But there’s no sense of development, merely waffle – and my old composition teacher would have marked it as such. Everything is around much the same tonal centre, endless minor right-hand triplets against scalic figures in the bass which often boomed out and growled. Occasionally there are blue chords and touches of chromaticism. There was a riff that hinted at the Dr Who theme, another The Snowman, and another at “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. As both performer and composer, Einaudi is limited. What you have to admire is the way the performers remember it all for its very sameness makes it difficult to memorise.

Classic FM and Radio 1, plus endless ads and films scores, and of course Spotify are responsible for putting Einaudi centre-stage. And to be fair, as background music, he has a place. But there’s no escaping the thought that Einaudi owes much to family connections: his father was a publisher working with authors including Primo Levi and Italo Calvino, while his paternal grandfather was a post-war president of Italy. His mother, Renata Aldrovandi, played the piano to him as a child, and her father Waldo Aldrovandi was a pianist, opera conductor and composer. The route to his teacher Luciano Berio may not have been so difficult.

Ah, the power of cheap music. One longed for Dudley Moore still to be alive to perform one his musical parodies. Or for a bear or a wildcat to emerge from the Piedmontese shadows to liven things up.

Liz Thomson's website


100% agree. I saw one of his concerts in 2013 and it just seems like his music is as you say turning into "background music". We paid 70£ per ticket and he serenaded us for nearly 2 hours, without passion, bored me nearly to sleep and the audience gutlessly gave him a standing ovation. I don't get it.

It is passionless, bloodles, convictionless.... Classic FM, Spotify etc have a lot to answer for and once-respectable record companies pour all the money and resources into this pap instead of fostering real talent.

If only your criticism shone as brightly as your phone screen did throughout the entire performance. The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.

Well I'm sorry but it was pitch black and thus impossible to use the traditional pen and notebook I'd brought. Not that my detailed notes were required.

I’m not sure why you even bothered to turn up and write a review about this fantastic concert of Ludovico Einaudi in the Barbican. Sorry that you were unable to recognise the variation in his music. Seems you forgot that music and life is about the small things that matter. In time you mary realise you attended but missed the concert of your life.

Very much doubt it.

Einaudi is a melodist. Its not so easy to write great beautiful melodies, it requires an X factor. He has it. Its true he is not a technician, he is not a bach, but he is a great classical composer. Oh yes. You just have to reawaken your ability to listen to quality and worry less about technique.

A melodist? Hmmmm. Discuss. X-Factor is where he belongs. Bach - who has a cap B btw - is not 'a technician' but a great composer, a giant of western music. Einaudi has no technique, as composer or performer. He's as great a classical composer as Lloyd-Webber - ie not at all.


Let my main man Prokofiev reinforce what Liz says here: 'melody...should be clear and simple without being repetitive or trivial'. Or banal, which is all I hear in Einaudi. Lloyd Webber did also come to mind, but he at least had a few melodic inspirations early on, even if they were indebted to other composers.

Your entitled your opinion but in my opinion your wrong for me the concert that I attended on Sunday was superb.

What would you suggest for a novice to this kind of music instead? Philip Glass is just endless arpeggios. Einaudi is good background music while I work, but where should I head for 'better'?

If I may jump in here, Reich and Adams. Both took similar points of departure to Glass, but evolved far more interestingly. Even their early works are thrilling.

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