2009 / Ponderosa Music & Art
Review by Kathy Parsons
As the promotional material I received says, “Ludovico Einaudi might be the most popular musician you’ve never heard of. But if you’re a fan of film, television, or even basketball, you’ve probably heard his music.” Several years ago, I was lucky enough to have a friend from England send me the European release, Echoes, a “best of” album akin to Narada’s and Windham Hill’s releases of David Lanz’s and Yanni’s music. I loved the music, but that and Einaudi’s many other albums were always imports and expensive. That has finally started to change. His latest album, Nightbook, was released in Europe last fall and just recently in the US, to be followed by a couple of concerts in CA in March 2010. Einaudi’s music is very difficult to classify - sometimes classical crossover, sometimes new age or ambient, sometimes pop, Einaudi is an artist who cannot be put in a box, and more power to him for that! Nightbook contains a fascinating combination of the gentle, dreamy music Einaudi is especially known for, some very uptempo “fun” music, and some really edgy stuff. Most tracks include strings, percussion, and electronics, but Einaudi’s piano is always the “star.”
Nightbook begins with “In Principio,” a piece for piano and electronics that suggests floating in open space - calm and very peaceful. Next up is “Lady Labyrinth,” with a driving rhythm, cello, lots of percussion, and a feeling of dark mystery. I love this one! Then comes the title track! I love this one, too! A real toe-tapper while remaining soulful and passionate, the energy is infectious and thrilling. Almost an antidote to the fun, “Indaco” gently brings us back to earth with a haunting piece for piano and strings. Gorgeous! “The Snow Prelude N.15” and “N. 2” are the only two solo piano pieces (not counting the bonus track), and both are elegant and deeply emotional. “Eros” is extremely intense. Strings, piano, drums, and electronics play repeated notes and rhythms that continue to build throughout the piece with only slight variations (possibly driving some listeners a little crazy!). This seems like great music for a film soundtrack because of the dark intensity and suspense. “The Crane Dance” is a dramatic change, calming and soothing with incredible beauty. “The Tower” is the edgiest piece on the album. It must have been recorded in layers, as Einaudi plays piano, electric piano, celesta, tubular bells, and acoustic guitars while Robert Lippok supplies live electronics. Very dark and intense, it builds slowly from a quiet but frenetic start to a bigger, denser, and extremely agitated climax and then starts to recede. Whew! It’s quite a ride! After that, “Reverie” is pure musical heaven - gentle, sweet, and full of grace. I love the pairing of piano and cello, and this one is magical! “The Planets” shows Einaudi’s more ambient side. Just piano and electronics, we are again effortlessly floating in space, completely at peace. The bonus track, “Piste Sans Titre 13,” is a different version of the title track. Much slower and a piano solo, it is almost meditative in its stillness. I have to admit that I was amazed to discover that it was the same piece. What an incredible album!
Nightbook is widely available as a physical CD and as a download. This is some amazing music, and I fully expect this album to be one of my favorites of the year! Very highly recommended!
February 2, 2010