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 . 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.
“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.
‘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.
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.
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.
Chopin is, undoubtedly, the pianist’s composer. Although he composed two concertos for piano and orchestra and some ensemble pieces, his best-loved compositions are for piano solo.
His larger scale works such as the sonatas, the four scherzi, the four ballades, the Fantaisie in F minor, opus 49 and the Barcarolle in F sharp major, opus 60 have cemented a solid place within the piano repertoire, as have his shorter works: the polonaises, the mazurkas, the waltzes, the Impromptus and the nocturnes.
Chopin invested all these works with deep feeling and emotion. His distinctive style conveys a musicality and beauty unsurpassed and the range of his work demonstrates versatility and virtuosity.
In order to illustrate this, I have selected three pieces which demonstrate the melodic and emotional depth of his work. I hope my recordings do some justice to these beautiful works.
Piano: John McGuinness
Chopin’s music is still very popular today and has been an inspiration to later pianists, composers and audiences. Indeed, contemporary piano composers are very much influenced by his romantic style and many refer to themselves as the new romantics. Major outlets for this music are to be found in film, theatre and the concert hall. These composers will be the subject of future blogs and include Ludovico Einaudi, Dario Marianelli, Yiruma and many more.
The term “Nocturne” was first applied to musical pieces in the 18th century. It indicated an ensemble piece in several movements, normally played for an evening party and then laid aside.
However, in its more familiar form, as a short piece usually written for solo piano, the nocturne was cultivated primarily in the 19th century. The first nocturnes to be written for piano were by the Irish composer, John Field (26 July 1782–23 January 1837).
Field is generally viewed as the father of the romantic nocturne, being the person who elevated the nocturne to the status later achieved by the great romantic composers, such as Chopin. The nocturne is traditionally associated with the night – a sort of evening serenade. However, it came to be associated more with its musical form. Simply put, it is usually in the form of a pure melody on the right hand with arpeggios on left hand.
Field composed eighteen nocturnes, their mixture of reverie and charming melodic invention providing constant musical delight.
I think one of the best examples of a nocturne in its pure form is Field’s first ever nocturne, Nocturne No. 1 in E FlatMajor. I decided, for better or for worse, to record it a few years back. I do hope you enjoy my rendition of it, warts n’all.
Incidentally, to give some idea of Field’s popularity in Russia – where he lived and worked for many years – he is mentioned in passing in War and Peace. There is a scene in Tolstoy’s novel where Countess Rostova calls on the Rostov household musician to play her favourite nocturne.
However, the most famous exponent of the form was Frederick Chopin who wrote 21 nocturnes. His nocturnes for piano solo are undoubtedly amongst the most glorious in the classical piano repertoire. They cover a broad spectrum of feelings and moods and are rich in musicality.
I am working on two of Chopin’s nocturnes at the moment but I haven’t recorded them yet. Maybe in a future blog when I reach my 300th birthday!
It is one of the curses of being largely self-taught that I fear I have arrived at Chopin a little too late in my life. However, the magic of audio and video recording brings with it immediate access to the genius of Chopin through the beautiful performances of world-renowned pianists.
I recently saw on YouTube a wonderful performance by a young pianist called Tiffany Poon. She is playing Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major, Opus 9, No.2. I found it rather beautiful and very moving. I hope you enjoy it too.
I hope this little blog and Tiffany’s gorgeous playing might entice you, even if you are not normally into classical piano music, to search out more of Chopin’s beautiful nocturnes. I guarantee you will not be disappointed!
I wrote this little piece for my late wife, Michèle, who died just before Christmas in 2010. I found that writing a musical diary was so beneficial to my grieving process. I remember at the time feeling Michèle’s loss as if it were a deep wound in my heart. I found that music gently soothed my aching heart and recalled me to the new life that I had to confront – slowly and painfully. A life without her – a life where she was everywhere, yet nowhere. In fact the original title I gave to the piece was “Everywhere and Nowhere”.
However, with the passing years happiness and joy have gradually come back into my life. I changed the title to “First Light” because this title speaks of new beginnings and the return of a future direction so essential to a refreshed engagement with life and the many loving people who form part of that life.
It is a deeply personal rendition but, after so many years, I feel privileged to share it with you
Étude Op. 10, No. 3, in E Major is a study for solo piano composed by Chopin in 1832. It was first published in 1833 in France, Germany, and England.
This is a slow cantabile created to assist students with their musical expressiveness and smoothness of playing. For me, it is simply one of the nicest wee tunes I’ve ever heard. Even the maestro himself believed the melody of the piece to be the most beautiful he had ever composed.
The melody became famous through numerous popular arrangements. Although this étude is sometimes identified by the names “Tristesse” (Sadness) or “L’ Adieu” (Farewell), neither is a name given by Chopin, but rather his critics. For me, it is rich in all sorts of feelings and, as such, irresistibly romantic.
I hope you enjoy my recording of this piece which I made some time ago for the “Wedding Album”
The dominant feeling that comes across from the music is a deep sense of nostalgia. This is actually confirmed by some of Chopin’s students. One reported that, on hearing his student play the Etude, Chopin wept and said out loud “ My homeland!”.
It is claimed that Chopin altered parts of the Etude so that a poem by Marian Jozefovicz would fit better to the music. For this reason, I find the following performance of the song derived from the Etude and sung in Polish, very touching. You might also like the version sung by Janus Popławski, a tenor from 1934 which can be found here.
My Polish sister-in-law played the Etude beautifully. My French mother-in-law used to refer to it as Tino Rossi‘s “Tristesse”. I’ve always loved the French version because it reminds me of beautiful summer days in France so many years ago.
There have been many English versions of the song “So Deep is the Night”, heavily based on the Etude. These range from beautiful to mediocre to appalling. One version which is rather delightful sung by David Chittick, is presented below with clips from the film “A Song to Remember” a 1945 musical drama in which Chopin sacrifices everything, even love, for his native Poland.
Many films have used the Etude as background, one notable example being near the beginning of “Testament of Youth”, a highly acclaimed film based on the life of Vera Britten, the late Shirley Williams’ mother.
This blog is the first in a series focusing on my favourite piano composers. I will be presenting some recordings of Chopin’s best loved pieces and I do hope that you enjoy this little encounter with one of the world’s greatest ever piano composers.
Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin was born on 1st March 1810 in Warsaw and was to become one of the world’s best known composers and virtuoso pianists. He has maintained worldwide renown as a composer whose “poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation.” (Rosen, 1995).
Chopin was a musical prodigy and he had completed many glorious early works by the time he was 20 years old. This first blog focuses on an extremely popular waltz composed by Chopin in the year 1829 at the age of 19. Waltz Op. 69, No. 2. from Deux Valses (“Two Waltzes”) was only published posthumously in 1852. The main theme is in the key of B Minor and is marked with an overall tempo of Moderato.
Chopin’s music has had a broad appeal and many of his melodies are instantly recognisable today. When I was a young psychology student at Glasgow University in the early 1970’s a lovely friend, Anne, gave me a book of Chopin Waltzes. I have always felt daunted by the prospect of playing Chopin but my love of and respect for his music has led me to “try” one or two of his pieces and, now that I am retired, I have even managed to record my efforts.
The piece for me conveys a strong sense of underlying melancholia. There are three different sections. The waltz opens with a beautiful melody that is very popular. For right or wrong, I like to play the opening a bit slower than a lot of players because I genuinely feel that the slightly slower tempo conveys more of the underlying pathos of the piece. Soon the melody changes. It is quicker, lighter, smoother as if the load is lifted a little and is a little bit cheerier in tone. The change to a major key assists this. Then the melancholia returns with the opening theme reestablished toward the end. I suspect my fondness for this piece is due to the way the music seems to mirror perfectly the switches in mood Chopin is purported to have experienced throughout his life.
Although it has achieved great popularity, ironically, it is one of several works that the composer hoped would be burnt upon his death. Thankfully, it wasn’t!
Over the past six months I have written some new piano pieces. These “Songs Without Words” are relatively short and are unashamedly romantic in style.
Each track is a composition in its own right. However, they are connected to each other emotionally and intellectually. They are sincere expressions of my inner world, my “inscape” as it interacts with the “landscape” around me.
As I write this, we are still experiencing the demands of lockdown but, at least, there is a semblance of a return to some kind of normality in the not too distant future.
Music is a wonderful gift of communication and I have been touched throughout the pandemic by the way so many people have danced, sung and played music in order to keep everyone’s spirits high, bring us socially together and provide us with dreams of a better tomorrow.
I rather suspect it will take many years for people to absorb the enormity of the pandemic and its effects on our lives. Slowly but surely we will become less “anaesthetised” to the full social, psychological, cultural and economic damage and gradually awaken to the full horror of the death toll and of a world changed utterly. As with all change, however, it will bring positive outcomes as well. One thing for sure is that we will awaken gradually to a fuller awareness of the fragility of our existence.
I have always believed that communication through music can help us to come to terms with loss and bereavement and begin to dream again. It is in this spirit that I wrote these little pieces of piano music.
The songs have a different feel to my last album “Requiem” (2020). Whereas “Requiem” was about a world of loss and sorrow, hurt and anger, my latest set of songs is about a world of conciliation, new beginnings and tenderness.
“Where?” is a little melody that I found myself whistling. I wrote the melody down and then added a simple chord progression. I don’t do words – I’m useless with lyrics. This annoys me intensely because sometimes my little tunes suggest words and I hear little phrases in my head as I hum the song. As is characteristic of me, I select one of these little phrases as the basis for a title. Funnily enough, “Where?” seems to fit perfectly the sense of searching which I often experience as I walk in the woods.
If you are interested in my little piece “Where?”, it is available on most channels – Spotify, YouTube, Amazon, Apple and many more… click HERE
Composed as part of the soundtrack for the 2001 film Amélie, Comptine d’un autre été, l’après midi was written by Yann Tiersen. Loosely translated as “Nursery Rhyme from Another Summer – Afternoon”. This lovely and intriguing piano solo is the film’s most iconic track.
With a duration of around 2.5 minutes, Comptine d’un autre été, l’après midi begins with a fluctuating lower line. The main melody then enters in groups of three. The piece’s simplicity and relentlessness creates a sense of both unease and sweetness. The result is utterly charming.
The overall effect it has on me is one of nostalgia, sadness and a profound sense of the irrevocable nature of existence. Nonetheless, I am left feeling hopeful and optimistic for the future as a result of listening to it.
I made a little film recently of a visit to a lovely spot close to my home on the River Trent. It was a beautiful afternoon and reminded me of summers past. Consequently, I decided to use Tiersen’s music as the backdrop to the images. Hope you enjoy both the video and the music.
This love song, written in 2013, was one of the biggest hits of the decade and cemented John Legend as one of the most admired singer-songwriters of his generation. He co-wrote the song with Toby Gad.
‘All of Me’ was inspired by John Legend’s then-fiancée, now wife, model Chrissy Teigen. The couple met in 2007 on the set of his video for ‘Stereo’. They married on September 14, 2013.
When asked what the song was about, he said: “The song is saying things that balance each other out: even when I lose, I’m winning; my head’s under water, but I’m breathing fine; I give you all of me, you give me all of you. At the same time as you’re giving everything up, you’re gaining everything, and that’s what the whole song is about. If you’re in love and you connect, then even when you’re giving things up, you’re gaining so much from it.”
I was playing it one day on my old piano when my grandaughter came in. She and Carol started singing as I played. Such a lovely melody and such a lovely memory to take into lockdown.
I decided at that moment to record it as one of the tracks on my “Run for Cover” series. The cover track for piano solo can be found on Spotify, YouTube, ITunes, Apple Music, Tidal and other platforms. I hope you enjoy it and feel you can share it with your friends and family.