Ludovico Einaudi – I Giorni (2001)

This album’s title translates as ‘The Days’ in English and was released in 2001. It was the first solo-piano follow-up to ‘Le Onde’ and became an almost instant hit on the popular British radio channel, Classic FM. The album is effectively one long lament, with each piece demonstrating Einaudi’s ability to compose utterly simple yet beguiling melodies.

Later on, the title track ‘I Giorni’ had a lot of interest due to Greg James’ airing in June 2011 on BBC Radio 1. It entered the UK Singles charts at number 32 on 12 June 2011. The solo piano track has also been featured on quite a few adverts for arts and culture programmes. By 2019, it had become Einaudi’s second most streamed single.

Einaudi was inspired to compose ‘I Giorni’ after hearing a twelfth-century folk song that originated in the country of Mali. The song describes the killing of a hippopotamus by a hunter, and the subsequent mourning in the local village [1]. It might seem strange then that so many people today choose this piece for their wedding ceremonies but the melody is so beautiful one can appreciate why this is so.

Two of my other favourites from this album are: ‘Stella del Mattino’ (‘Morning Star’) and ‘Limbo’, the first piece of Einaudi’s music I ever heard! It was inspired in part by Radiohead’s music who were enjoying a great deal of success at the turn of the new century.

‘Stella del Mattino’ composed by Ludovico Einaudi, played by John McGuinness
‘Limbo’ composed by Ludovico Einaudi, played by John McGuinness


Ludovico Einaudi – Eden Roc (1999)

“Eden Roc” was written in 1999 and established Einaudi as a household name in both Italy and the UK. There are fifteen tracks in all.

Of the album, Einaudi wrote, “Eden Roc is the name of a place on the south coast of France where the writer Francis Scott Fitzgerald lived and where he located the beginning of his novel ‘Tender is the Night’. From that book I partially took the inspiration for Eden Roc …. the idea of an ideal place where you can find your inner balance in the world”.

‘Nefeli’ is my favourite solo-piano track on this album and is very beautiful. According to Greek mythology, Nephele was a cloud nymph created by Zeus from a cloud in the image of Hera. Einaudi dedicated this song to the daughter of a couple he would regularly visit. Ludovico was inspired by her vivaciousness. Although ‘Nefeli’ is Greek for clouds, it reminded Einaudi of sunshine and this is how he viewed the little girl. The music flows so sweetly that it brightens up my day when I hear it. To play it is a magical experience. I recorded it many years ago and I hope you enjoy my rendition.

Nefeli’ composed by Ludovico Einaudi, played by John McGuinness

‘Due Tramonti’ (‘Two Sunsets’) is the first piece of Einaudi I ever played. It is a piece for piano and cello although Einaudi later transcribed it for solo piano. The music was inspired by a story told to Ludovico by his father. Apparently, when his father was driving with a friend, they saw the most beautiful sunset in the Italian hills. Blown away by the stunning act of nature they had just witnessed, his father put his foot down on the pedal and they hurried up the next hill in order to have the luxury of a second viewing. This was the night they saw two sunsets. The beauty of the piano and cello combination is breathtaking. I recorded the piano solo version in 2011. I do hope you like it.

‘Due Tramonti’ composed by Ludovico Einaudi, played by John McGuinness

I love the beautiful lyricism and flow of the track called ‘Julia‘. It conveys a ‘feel’ of the rock melodies prevalent in the early sixties and, consequently, I find it touching and refreshing.

‘Julia’ composed by Ludovico Einaudi, played by John McGuinness

Why not listen to Einaudi’s album “Eden Roc” in its entirety? The music covers a range of moods and feelings and there is a deep sense of friendship among the contributing musicians that emerges through the music.

“Eden Roc” was undoubtedly a major landmark in Einaudi’s career.

Ludovico Einaudi – Le Onde

In today’s blog celebrating the piano music of Ludovico Einaudi, I will explore his ground-breaking album “Le Onde” which was released in 1996. Einaudi’s popularity in the UK was mediated by the prevalence of his music on the popular and influential British radio station Classic FM and it immediately drew a huge response from listeners.

Le Onde 1996 (“The Waves”) was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s novel of the same name and was an album comprising 13 tracks. It opens with a short, melodious 16th Century French melody entitled “Canzone Popolare”.

Canzone Popolare: Composed by Ludovico Einaudi and played by John McGuinness

This is followed by the gorgeous title cover song “Le Onde”. Essentially, in this song, Einaudi sets out to explore the ideas behind the waves, time and life. The end result is a highly melodic piece, which successfully captures the rhythm of the waves. The basic melody is constant throughout, but subtly changes at different points, just as one might expect of the waves.

Given the fact that “Le Onde” is one of Einaudi’s early landmark pieces, I leave it to the man himself to play this for you. In my opinion, this is both charming and stylish.

Of the other tracks on the album, my favourite ones are “La Linea Scura” and “Questa Notte”.

“La Linea Scura” (“Dark Line”) refers to the line of the horizon that separates sea and sky. Once again influenced by the writing of Woolf, Einaudi decided to capture in music the description in words by Woolf of the line on the horizon where the clouds meet the sea. I recorded “La Linea Scura” many years ago. I do hope you enjoy it.

La Linea Scura: Composed by Ludovico Einaudi and played by John McGuinness

“Quests Notte“ (“This Night”) is a celebration of the night and was a great favourite when it was released. It is a piece of some complexity. In my opinion, the phrasing of the piece reminds me that, as a young composer, Einaudi played folk guitar. One certainly sees this influence in the writing of this composition, particularly in the opening sections. One hears resonances of the title track and it is perhaps best to view this composition as a richly textured variation on “Le Onde”. He often played this song as a finale piece in some of his early concerts.

Questa Notte: Composed by Ludovico Einaudi and played by John McGuinness

Einaudi attempted to outline his vision of the album with the following words:

“If it were a story it would be set on the seafront of a long beach. A beach without beginning and without end. The story of a man who walks along this shore and perhaps never meets anyone. His gaze lingers occasionally to look at some object or fragment brought from the sea. The footprints of a crab or a solitary seagull. I always take the sand, the sky, some clouds, the sea. Only the waves change, always the same and different, smaller, larger, shorter, longer.”

Ludovico Einaudi

I’ve always loved Einaudi’s beautifully haunting and lyrical music. What separates it out from other contemporary piano music is that, while the music itself is simple, it has a depth of feeling and emotion that is quite unparalleled. It is both poetic and rich in musicality.

Einaudi was born in Turin, Piedmont, in 1955. His father, Giulio Einaudi, was a publisher working with authors including Itali Calvino. His paternal grandfather, Luigi Einaudi, was President of Italy between 1948 and 1955. His mother, Renata Aldrovandi, a gifted amateur pianist, played the piano to him as a child. His maternal grandfather, Waldo Aldrovandi, was a pianist, opera conductor, and composer who emigrated to Australia after World War II.

Einaudi started composing his own music as a teenager, first writing by playing a folk guitar. He began his musical training at the Conservatorio Verdi in Milan, obtaining a diploma in composition in 1982. That same year he took an orchestration class taught by Luciano Berio and was awarded a scholarship to the Tanglewood Music Festival. According to Einaudi, “[Luciano Berio] did some interesting work with African vocal music and did some arrangements of Beatles songs, and he taught me that there is a sort of dignity inside music. I learnt orchestration from him and a very open way of thinking about music.”

He also learned by collaborating with musicians such as Ballaké Sissoko from Malib and Djivan Gasparyan from Armenia. His music is ambient, meditative, and often introspective, drawing on minimalism and contemporary rock.

Ludovico Einaudi’s early compositions in the 1980s used traditional chamber music and orchestral forms, and he created several dance and multimedia pieces which foreshadowed his later work in film and TV soundtracks.

From the mid-Nineties and into the new century, it was his piano-based albums Le Onde (inspired by Virginia Woolf’s novel The Waves), Eden Roc and I Giorni which began to break him through to a popular audience. The title pieces of each of those discs epitomised Einaudi’s trademark qualities of simple, haunting melodies, lucid harmonies and a vaguely mystical sense of being taken on some kind of inner quest. It was meditative music full of inviting spaces. These works suggested that Einaudi was also a little more radical than his detractors might give him credit for. His willingness to experiment was evident on his second album, Stanze (1992), a group of his compositions performed by Cecilia Chailly (sister of conductor Riccardo Chailly) on the electric harp, creating a startlingly and exhilarating tapestry of sounds.

Notte Part 1 performed by Cecilia Chailly from Einaudi’s Stanze (2011)

There is an elitism in the classical music world that rejects Einaudi’s music as repetitive and simplistic. These views are often perpetrated by those who are quick to decry social elitism, while simultaneously displaying a certain academic elitism towards those people who enjoy Einaudi’s music and flock to his concerts.

For example, Philip Clark in a Guardian Review dated 1st August, 2019 provided a scathing attack on Einaudi’s 2019 concert describing his work variously as “unmemorable and humourless”, “soulless”, “unpalatably synthetic” and “cheap” even though Einaudi succeeded in filling the Barbican Hall five nights in a row!

So much traditional music, outstanding and admirable as it is, can suffer from having too many unnecessary passages and an over-concentration of notes. In my humble view, Einaudi’s music, rather than “lacking content”, is in fact rich in content and lacking in clutter. The sayings “less is more” and “simplicity- the key to all good taste” come to mind. It is in this deep sense that I regard his music as Minimalist rather than simplistic.

Ludovico Einaudi’s music regularly tops the classical charts globally and has also proved remarkably adaptable to the era of streaming and downloading. The overlays of electronica on In A Time Lapse (2013) prompted a stampede of download sales, while Einaudi’s Seven Days Walking: Day 1 was the fastest-streamed album ever by a classical composer and exceeded 2 million streams on the day of release.

The evocative clarity of Einaudi’s music has made him a natural choice for advertisers and film makers. Although Einaudi eschews the idea that his music is exclusively classical (e.g. he has repeatedly stated that his music is inspired by “world’, folk song, jazz, rock as well as classical) he is regarded by many as the most successful classical composer of his generation. His music is instantly popular and recognisable.

“I like the idea that something that I hear moves me inside,” says Einaudi, “and sometimes when I play I can feel this happening to the audience. I don’t consider the piano as a job. It’s very connected to my inner feelings.”

Musical taste is subjective and highly personal. Einaudi’s music may be simple, but there is beauty in simplicity, and accessibility in his gentle, inoffensive lyricism, as confirmed by the huge popularity of his music. It may not compete with the complexities and imagination of Messaien, but it is possible to like both. For many, Einaudi’s music provides solace in our uncertain times, and for that reason alone, it has value. Perhaps next time a critic attends a concert where the music says nothing to them, but appeals to a large number of people, they might pause to consider why this is the case.