Ludovico Einaudi presented an intense two hour and a quarter concert last evening at Atlanta Symphony Hall. For nearly half of the concert, Maestro Einaudi played solo piano and for the remainder, he was joined by electric violin and cello, percussion, synthesizer, and bass guitar. Einaudi is one of the most listened-to composer/pianists of the digital age. His music is stylistically minimalist, which he uses to create beautiful and touching melodies. He is criticized by some classical critics, but there is no doubt that he produces music that appeals to a wide range, especially younger, of people. Einaudi eschews labels for his music, but grants that it features elements of world, classical, jazz, rock, pop, New Age, etc. But categories aside, Einaudi mesmerized the audience in Atlanta.
The staging was minimal (if you pardon the pun), including some electric candles, and various background colors. But the most affecting part of the staging was the video graphics that were perfectly suited to the music being played, and they included color blocks, faux hieroglyphics, photos of natural objects, modified with different filters. And his sound engineer made make the most of Symphony Hall’s treacherous acoustics. Often, with amplified music, the sound becomes muddy and loud; here the sound was crisp and the bass was solid. The skill of the engineer managed to cover many of the Hall’s acoustical flaws.
There was no printed playlist so the audience just focused on the music and not titles. Einaudi’s music is most effective when it is not driven by the percussion; there were about five pieces that were heavily influenced by a drum. The amplified violin and cello were beautifully played and were blended nicely with the piano. It is interesting that Einaudi performs with his back to the audience, but that did not seem to interfere with his connection to his fans.
There is no doubt the most effective portion of the program was a half-hour long piano solo by Mr. Einaudi. His music is not particularly complex, and it is very tonal. His melodies are unsurpassed, and he has an immense, but very well controlled dynamic range. During this long solo interlude, the audience was totally silent. In fact, I cannot remember a time in Symphony Hall when 1200 people were so silent and quiet in their seats. With only a single overhead light focusing on the piano, Mr. Einaudi managed to cause people to wipe away tears as they listened.
This was grand music making, and Einaudi is a skilled interpreter of his own music. He is worth seeing and hearing. It is quite an experience.