Classical connections to the soul

by Chiho Iuchi

Although Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi was classically trained at Milan’s Conservatorio, the 52-year-old Turin native has ventured far from his classical roots to create works that draw on an eclectic blend of influences.

Einaudi, who recently made his debut in Japan with the release of “La Scala: Concert” and a concert at Tokyo’s Italian Cultural Institute, says that carving out his own path has always been a priority.

“The creative process of composing music has always fascinated me,” says Einaudi, who began composing in his teens. “I like music that expresses what I think. I think that I can do it in a more creative way, rather than playing music of someone else from the past.”

While studying at the Conservatorio, Einaudi was drawn to composers influenced by traditional folk music, such as Bela Bartok and Igor Stravinsky.

After experimenting with various genres of music and composing for a variety of stage performances, Einaudi had established his own style by the 1980s.

In 1996, his solo album “Le Onde (The Wave),” inspired by Virginia Wolff’s novel “The Wave,” was a European hit.

Parts of “Le Onde” were used in the soundtrack for Italian director Nanni Moretti’s 1998 film “Aprile” and the composer later went on to create soundtracks for the 2001 Giuseppe Piccioni film “Luce dei miei occhi (Light of My Eyes)” and the 2002 TV adaption of “Doctor Zhivago.”

In 2001, Einaudi released “I Giorni (The Days),” inspired by a trip to Mali. During the trip, he remembers being enchanted by a melody that turned out to have originated in the 16th century.

“In Mali you hear music everywhere.” Einaudi recalls. “What is fantastic in Mali is the music tradition is handed down from father to son orally. It is not written. You learn from your father and add something, because you are living now and telling a story to others. This results in many different interpretations of the same song.”

The simple aesthetic of traditional Japanese gardens is another influence. “They are made of simple space, not too crowded, and you can experience the harmony,” said Einaudi. “The elegance and balance between what is in the space was a great lesson to me.”

Einaudi’s music is simple and quiet to the point of being meditative. He does not prepare printed programs at his concerts. Instead, based on how he feels in the moment, he improvises the order of the pieces, making every concert unique. The performances feature passages that resemble the steady crashing of waves along with melancholic melodies that can reveal feelings we harbor deep inside.

“It is very important to have connection with your soul and open your heart to people,” Einaudi says with a smile.

Ludovico Einaudi’s next performances in Japan take place at Hakuju Hall in Yoyogi on May 29 at 7 p.m. and May 31 at 2 p.m. Tickets are ¥4,200 in advance. For more information, call (03) 3746-2503.