The dark skies over Verona Arena foretell a dramatic evening to come as Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi calmly follows his orchestra onto the stage. And even though the stormy heavens open halfway through the first ethereal track nothing could possibly dampen this performance.
Protected from the downpour by anoraks, ponchos, umbrellas and all manner of improvised shelter the audience sit reverently under their sweet-wrapper-rustling canopy as Einaudi and his eclectic ensemble open, appropriately, with Waterways from his 2013 album, In A Time Lapse. The contrast between the on-stage delicacy and the thunderous backdrop from mother nature overhead adds the final ingredient for a spectacular evening.
Born in Turin in November 1955 and first inspired by his mother who played the piano to him as a child, Einaudi trained at Milan’s Conservatorio Verdi under the tutelage of composer Luciano Berio in the 1980s. The pianist started out as a classical composer but later began to incorporate other musical genres such as pop, world and folk music into his work for film soundtracks and solo albums.
And although his work may not yet be familiar to everyone, Einaudi pushes beyond the dusty boundaries of classical music to permeate our lives as the backdrop to films such as This is England, trailers for Black Swan or The Book Thief and various Top Gear escapades on TV. Einaudi’s atmospheric music has also been used for adverts for British Airways, Nationwide Building Society and Proctor & Gamble’s sponsorship of both the 2012 London and 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. His latest sell out tour, titled after the latest album “In A Time Lapse”, is testimony to his growing popularity around the world.
Sitting with his back to the audience on the left hand side of the stage Einaudi gently coaxes his grand piano to life, playing the spider-web-delicate openings to tracks old and new that variously simmer softly or crash compellingly, emoting, as Einaudi himself explains, “all of life’s experiences and passions in a single moment”. Over the next two and a half hours the audience is transported and transfixed by the epic, emotional and experimental adventure through time as Einaudi sits calmly at his keyboard, turning occasionally to acknowledge the applause.
Einaudi’s centre-stage 11-piece orchestra beautifully compliments, contrasts and combats his dexterous delicacy adding texture, tempo and tone. Soaring, scything strings cut through the pianist’s melodies. Violins add vigour and urgency whilst cellos add brooding drama and occasionally hark back to by-gone folk and gypsy traditions. Tinkling, trickling xylophones add crystalline clarity to “Orbits” and “Newton’s Cradle” while bombastic drums and tambourines beat out the heartbeat. Add to that an eclectic mix of acoustic and electric guitars, classic and baroque style, romance and confrontation, percussion and electronic wizardry and you have an evening that feeds the musical soul.
The Verona skies work hard to provide a spectacular light-show too. Fleeting lightning illuminates the dark stage, awed audience and brooding clouds alike as piano, string and percussion weave together. Thunder pierces the quieter moments and raises the tumultuous crescendos to the heavens. It could not have been planned to be more dramatic or atmospheric and sends a shiver down the spine and goose pimples racing across the drenched skin of audience. And even when the stage canopy flaps furiously in the wind and accidentally dumps a deluge directly onto Einaudi’s upper range keys, to the amusement of both the maestro and his fans, the dexterous dozen play on to ever increasing applause.
As midnight draws near and the clouds finally part, poignant piano and cello track “Underworld” hold the audience spellbound as the notes rise out across the inky sky. Finally the ensemble bring the concert to a close before the audience beg for an encore.
The stage crew swiftly sweep the stage of water and deftly assemble an upright piano in a corner near the audience, stage right. Einaudi returns to rapturous cheers. Sitting in a single spotlight which picks out the exposed piano hammers as they strike the notes, the master plays a couple of haunting solo tracks before he rejoins the orchestra and six traditional Italian drummers for the finale which lifts the roof off!
And as Einaudi and his orchestra take their well-deserved bow its clear how loved this classic contemporary man is. The intensity of the performance is unlike anything else, taking the audience from the delicacy of single piano notes that hover in the cool evening breeze to the stunning, thunderous crescendo of the orchestra which plays as one in a tight togetherness that demonstrates a level of musicianship rarely seen. And not even a tropical thunderstorm and deluge could deter 15,000 fans! There truly are not enough adjectives to capture the essence of the evening but the ones which immediately jump to mind include mesmerising, poignant, delicate, emotional, effortless, powerful, awakening, thrilling, fragile, rousing and meditative. If you’ve never come across the name Ludovico Einaudi I recommend you look him up. Immediately!!!!
Official website – www.ludovicoeinaudi.com
Official trailer for the concert in Verona – www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SaFl9hVmAc
Note : apologies for the grainy photos, taken on my phone due to lack of a submarine or waterproof camera! ;o)