Concert review: Ludovico Einaudi

May 21, 2013

As I sat in the middle of the almost-packed Danforth Music Hall, waiting for the pianist and his orchestra that I had come to see, I started wondering what angle I should take in this review. Despite being a huge fan, I only discovered the wide appeal and worldwide message of Ludovico Einaudi while preparing for this concert. And this made me ask myself: Should I focus on the composer’s global influence and the variety of sounds that he uses? Should I focus on his multi-generational appeal? Or should I take the route of describing the emotional impact of the night?

But as the attendees—young and old and everyone in between—took their seats, and the hustle and bustle of people settling down was replaced by the band walking on stage to the beat of the steel drum, followed by the slow takeover of the string instruments that started the show, only to eventually be joined by a myriad of instruments—from glockenspiel to guitar to live electronics, and even a kalimba (a thumb piano that is native to the Sub-Saharan region), and of course by Einaudi himself slowly and softly moving his hands along the keys of the piano, that’s when it hit me: Focusing on one aspect of the performance would be antithetical to everything this eclectic composer is trying to express through his impassioned music.

Ludovico Einaudi is a composer of his age, of our age. He is a cosmopolitan composer. His music transcends boundaries and brings people together. In an era when classical music is relegated to the margins, he manages to bring in a crowd from all walks of life, representing all age-groups, all sitting around me, overtaken by the raw emotions of the violin that takes one lower and lower, into the darknesses of melancholia, as well as the childish sound of the kalimba that takes one to simpler, more innocent times.

While his music is decidedly classical, Einaudi is clearly influenced by many different sounds, at points even letting his piano take a backseat as the instruments not usually associated with Western classical music take the lead.

And that’s when I remembered what he told me when I asked him over the phone why he had decided to make his latest album much thicker in texture compared to many of his previous, more piano-led records: “It’s all a process of using all the possibilities that you have in the musical experience to drive the emotions through.”

Indeed, that’s exactly what it felt like. His compositions are filled with struggle, a fight against all human limitations to communicate the incommunicable. He is like the artist who calmly paints stroke after stroke, only to get frustrated by his inability to truly express himself using his limited tools, and in anguish throws all his colours onto the canvas, blends them in, and somehow, out of the chaos comes an order, a masterpiece that expresses the human condition. And that, ultimately, is what makes Einaudi garner such a diverse audience: He uses the sounds of different cultures to express the struggles of every human.

But his music is not all mad with struggle. At times, he tuned it down with a solo piano performance, equally as passionate but more introspective. And that’s when Einaudi showed a different side of himself, and proved the diversity of his repertoire that enables him to use whatever tool necessary to express himself in a way only a musical polyglot can.