In Conversation: Ludovico Einaudi

"You establish a path with a route in which you follow and go through..."

“I wanted to do something more interactive and free,” Ludovico Einaudi admits, his voice dipping into the silky smoothness of its twangy Italian baritone.

Slouched on a soft green velvet sofa in Italy, I find myself surrounded by brick walls, vibrant plants and antique furniture. The floor is covered with old-fashioned stoned tiles, displaying a blend of deep homely browns, matched with a patterned vintage red rug. Sat across from me is the ground-breaking classical composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi. Born and bred in Italy, his music is most recognised through its influence from nature and use in films, advertisements and documentaries.

To say his music is cinematic is all too obvious and Einaudi’s ability to create intricate and emotive musical narratives is a rare gift to be admired. His skill to write masterfully poignant and heart-rending pieces of entirely immersive music, is achieved so effortlessly.

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With 14 albums under his belt, Einaudi has had time to experiment with his extraordinary talent. After some early prestigious commissions in the classical world he turned his back on what he regarded as an essentially conservative approach to music to embrace his own enthusiasms, which included African, folk and rock music.

“I have so many,” he casually chuckles, as we ponder over how he has accomplished so much. “It’s different then before, as years ago I had more time for myself. I was also touring less then I do today so I had more time to stay at home and compose. Now the composition process is mixed between some moments that I have at home of course, but a lot of times I’m touring and so I record the ideas with my phone and take notes.”

“When I start a new process of composing for an album, I start by listening to what I have in my recordings and try to see if I can find a thread between the music and a connection. This can sometimes be a long process as I have hours and hours of recordings coming from different years and sources.”

“This is when I start to collect ideas and at the same time I start to think and find a frame for the music, so generally for me it’s quite important to find a concept which keeps everything together. This also helps me to select the ideas, so for example, the album before was ‘Elements’ and when I found an idea the music started to be more selective to become a part of that specific project. In a different way this also happened for this album.”

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With a 30-year career, you would start to question what else he may possibly be offering on his new album 'Seven Days Walking'. Yet, it all becomes clear to me as I look over the breath-taking scenery Alba has to offer. With its silvery olive groves and endless fields of vineyards, beautifying the rolling hills with an enchanting mountain-lined display, how could someone not be influenced by such harmonious splendour.

Derived from walks Einaudi would take through the Italian landscape, his newest release shares a story of his own voyage. Intertwining repeated threads with piano and strings in harmony, 'Seven Days Walking (Day 1)' creates and sustains a sense of the transcendent. Thanks to the idyllic environment it provides spectral beauty to be found on this pastoral album. His plan is to spend the rest of this year releasing one album every month for seven months under the umbrella title 'Seven Days Walking'.

“I wanted to sort of build a continuous journey,” he says. “I wanted to investigate why the forms of music were exactly like when you’re travelling to another place without any breaks.”

Sitting upright, he leans forward and with a finger he draws a circle on the velvety surface. “You establish a path with a route in which you follow and go through.”

Elaborating further, Einaudi continues: “It’s like a musical route which stands as a metaphor for actually walking a route. You might stop to see a tree or view the mountains and decide to take a shorter route. You can do similar exploration musically because you can decide where you want to go and then can always slightly change something. You might discover something like an animal or another person, or one day it may be sunny or raining”.

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Almost like a respite from the business and crowdedness of life, he successfully takes the listener to places of more beauty, solitude and tranquility. Paired with use of string instruments, it features the talents of Federico Mecozzi on violin/viola and Redi Hasa on cello, alongside Einaudi himself on the piano.

Creating pictures and visual examples, the music comes together displaying eerily spacious tones and beautiful sequences. “I like to give some images and suggest something but I do leave traces of a story that everyone can notice,” he clarifies with a calm voice. 

After seeing him the night before performing at Teatro Sociale ‘Giorgio Busca’, an Opera house in Alba, it was clear the trio remained to perform with such passion and expression. “It’s something that I have to consider because if you play too much you may risk to lose something like the energy or excitement to be there,” Einaudi agrees. “So, it’s something that I work with and I’m very concerned about. Of course this is one of the reasons I changed the repertoire on every tour – not only the repertoire but the concept. I try to find a different excitement, and be in a different situation. With just the three of us it’s completely different as we are more engaged musically because everything is very exposed and so it is another kind of challenge to explore.”

Our gaze soon wonders out of the window into this expanse of green. “If you look out there we see rosemary,” Einaudi tells me. Vivid colours filled the outside, the trees are deep with spring foliage and the flowers and plants rioted in the jubilant way that only most divine of blooms can.

“Each plant of rosemary is different but actually they are all the same plant,” he goes onto say. "I quite like the idea of exploring things from different angles and I also like the fact that you come back to melodic motives and exploring them from a different point of view. It’s like looking at those plants and looking at the other side which are the same but in a changed setting.”

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"I think the idea of repetition gives an interesting perception which I use. If you expand this concept to a wider amount of music it’s nice that you have a sort of motif that comes back maybe 20 minutes later which you recognise. However, it can be played slower or with a different harmony and can be really quite beautiful.”

Pausing to backtrack, we venture into his very earliest memories of his relationship with the piano. At this point the sun was a radiant, all-watching, glowing eye. Its light creeping into every corner, bathing the whole room in a shimmering liquid gold.

“The memory of first playing the piano is very connected with my mother.” I watch him as the light reflects off his glasses. “She used to play at home and although just an amateur pianist not a teacher, she taught me a lot because the sound of the piano was very much part of the house.”

Although we were discussing a wistful memory, Einaudi had a way of talking that made the atmosphere feel at ease. “You know when you go into a house and there is a sort of aura that you connect to. Well, the sound of the piano was always around and for me it was my mother playing. She always played very delicately and the way she played classical music was very free.”

A bit like when you’re reading a newspaper and you read something but then you turn your head and come back to it. It was very natural the way she interacted with the piano and almost like reading a book for her. The best lesson that I learnt from her was her style which was very unique and unpredictable.”

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Swiftly back on another tour, Einaudi and his team seem to be very busy. “It has been a very busy time!” he laughs, after a bashful pause. As we wrap up, he leaves me with one last visual of the exciting things yet to come. “First I was composing and recording for the albums, and then I started writing an opera that I’m doing in October which is based on a libretto by an Irish writer Colm Toibin.”

“So this was a huge piece of work that I’ve done at the beginning of the year and now I’ve just finished another part of a project that I’m doing in Paris in May for a theatre production with Bob Wilson and Isabella Huppert the french actress.”

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All seven parts of 'Seven Days Walking' will be released throughout 2019.

Words + Photography: Lauren McDermott

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