For the second time in less than a week I found myself attending a concert which was entirely instrumental: tonight, however, was a very different experience to seeing the rock band Dub Trio. A different kind of heavy. Ludovico Einaudi’s solo piano concerto saw the award-winning Italian composer and pianist make his Toronto debut. Some of his most famous work can be heard in the scores to films including Black Swan and the new Di Caprio flick J. Edgar. This concert at the intimate Jane Mallett Theatre at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts was Einaudi’s Toronto debut, and I felt privileged to be invited to see it. It would be a new experience for me.
The formal mood and vibe of the evening was predictable, with a theatre full of smartly dressed people sitting attentively in their chairs for the 1 hour 50 minute duration of the concert. Adding to the tense mood was Ludovico Einaudi, who is an introverted and modest character – his approach to the piano is that of a dedicated maestro, with the music being delivered with a terseness that is reflected in the music. Everything was tense: Einaudi, his music and the audience, sitting stiff in their seats. The tension of the occasion is not a negative, but instead a compliment to the intense level of expression and emotion that Einaudi channels through his piano keys. The music is so physical, that you cannot fail to feel it as it tugs at your shoulders with heavy hands. I felt my back and neck tightening at the beginning of a piece, as Einaudi would weave the mood of the music and build to climaxes that brought temporary relief, lighter moments, before once again getting heavier. Each piece would provide further seconds of respite as Einaudi paused for applause, responding with a tight smile and a modest bow of the head.
In a couple of moments, Einaudia used some digital effects to add ambience to this music. I found these pieces the most interesting and enjoyable; as a fan of electronic and experimental music, I couldn’t help but wonder about the possibilities of further experimentation of piano music by utilizing effects to a greater extent.
My observation of Einaudi is that he is clearly a master of his instrument but also a man who works in his own distinct and defined range. I was hearing and seeing this music for the first time but everything Einaudi did was stamped with his unique trademark and contained within the same zone. The passion is fierce but controlled. I could almost visualize a cage around the man and his music: a cage that contains some of the heaviest, deltoid-straining and brain-prodding piano music you could hope to feel.
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice