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.
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.
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.
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
This Song, released by the band Queen in 1975, has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years. Regarded by many as one of the most progressive rock songs of all time, its popularity has continued to the present day.
Bohemian Rhapsody is a six-minute suite, consisting of several sections without a chorus. It has an intro, a ballad segment, an operatic passage, a hard rock part and a reflective coda. It was written by the band’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury.
It is still one of the best-selling rock singles of all time, was voted “The Song of the Millennium” in 2000, and was recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the No. 1 song of all time.
The lyrics of the song are strange but fit the music beautifully. There has been much speculation as to the meaning of the words. Most people accept that the lyrics are largely self-referential, reflecting something of the intensity of Mercury’s life and personality. Mercury was very close emotionally to his parents. They were of the Parsi religion which sees homosexuality as an abomination. It is, therefore, possible that the lyrics reflect internal conflicts and issues relating to Mercury’s identity. Mercury was always evasive about the meaning of the lyrics. He said simply that the song was “about social relationships”.
In the seventies, I had mixed feelings about the song. I was never a great fan of Queen, but I was aware the group was different. I loved sections of the Bohemian Rhapsody, admiring the harmonies and the musicianship. However, I found the words a bit pretentious and the musical structure somewhat disjointed. I always liked the energy of the piece and I was touched by the underlying sense of melancholy, particularly in the closing passages.
More recently I have grown to appreciate this piece of music. Rick Wakeman, on BBC’s Desert Island Discs, tells a lovely story about his dad. Rick said that he and his dad happened to hear an old song on the radio and Rick, being a young arrogant music student, said “ How can people like that rubbish?”. His dad, who was a bit of a musician himself, said kindly, “try not to dismiss any music as unworthy until you have taken the time to learn and then play it. By doing this, I find that I nearly always come to understand why people like it”.
I have followed Mr Wakeman’s advice and, as a consequence, have grown to love and admire the vitality and complexity of this wonderful piece of music. I have recorded “Bohemian Rhapsody” and wish to share it with you. This version for piano solo is quite complex and I hope it conveys some of the energy of the piece. As is typical of me, I have attempted to make it somewhat “classical” in style although, unlike many versions, it is fairly close to the original. I do hope you enjoy it.
As well as growing to love Bohemian Rhapsody, I also came slowly to admire its composer, Freddie Mercury. I decided to write my own little tribute to him. I chose one or two chord progressions from the beginning of the rhapsody and developed them into this little piece to celebrate his life and works.
Delighted to support The Trove Cambridge with their Crowdfunding campaign and Treasures Box Launch! Love the video and the fact that Steph used my music – Yiruma’s ‘River Flows in You’ from ‘The Wedding Album’.
You can find out more about the Trove Cambridge and the Crowdfunding page HERE . Please donate if you can and take a look at the Rewards!