Ludovico Einaudi: Seven Years Walking ★★★
Myer Music Bowl, January 25
According to some music streaming services Italian composer and performer Ludovico Einaudi is currently the most popular “classical” composer in the world. His premiere status has only strengthened since the staggered release, beginning in March 2019, of Seven Days Walking, a series of compositions inspired by expeditions Einaudi made to the Swiss Alps the previous year.
While Einaudi might have studied with some of the leading composers of 20th century classical music, such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio, he has not, however, sought the mantle of classical composer for himself. Classical music critics, in their turn, have also struggled to accommodate him. “A journey with no surprises” and “A Long Road to Nowhere” are typical of the kinds of invective Seven Days Walking has provoked from them elsewhere.
In response, one might imagine Einaudi – to quote Liberace (another classical musician-turned-popular-icon) – “crying all the way to the bank”. But to suggest this would do him, and his audience, an injustice – there is no reason to question the sincerity behind his music or the sincerity with which it is received.
Given its reliance on slow repetitive chord sequences, simple melodic “hooks” and a limited harmonic palate, a more accurate genre designation for it might be “ambient pop”. In any event, the capacity audience at the Myer Music Bowl were smitten by it. I cannot recall hearing a Bowl audience be so quiet for so long.
Ably accompanied by Redi Hasa on cello and Federico Mecozzi on violin for most of the two-hour set, Einaudi delivered a highly polished and sensitively rendered performance. The backdrop visuals were, however, less impressive and the use of haze as a stage effect has also, I suspect, lost something of its innate appeal after such a calamitous summer.
Ultimately, I left wonde–ring, too, whether all the sonic comfort and consolation I had just heard might have yet benefited from being punctuated now and again by at least a hint of irony, fracture, or self-doubt. Coincidentally, the tag line for the NGV’s current feature exhibition is “companionship in the age of loneliness”; maybe Einaudi’s music has become so popular today because it offers something similar – music that feels safe and reassuring midst a world that seems to be less and less so. The question that lingers, however, is whether that’s really enough.