2022 / Decca
Review by Kathy Parsons
Underwater is the first solo piano recording from Ludovico Einaudi in 20 years. The most-streamed classical artist of all time, Einaudi has also composed the soundtracks for several prominent films including Nomadland and The Father. Underwater was created during the pandemic lockdown while Einaudi was isolated at home in Italy - just he and his piano. Without his normally busy touring schedule, Einaudi was able to find a place of simplicity with fewer distractions. “I felt a sense of freedom to abandon myself and to let the music flow in a different way. I didn’t have a filter between me and what came out of the piano, it felt very pure. I call it song writing and not composing, it was a fresh approach for me.” The album reflects on freedom from the boundaries of our everyday lives while it creates an artistic expression about a time when the world was quiet. Einaudi spent days preparing his grand piano to create a warm, intimate sound that represents the feeling of the music. "I wanted the piano to talk and sing in a very intimate way. Like talking one-to-one with someone in a personal connection." The percussive quality of the piano is softened a bit to give it that intimate quality.
The title Underwater is a metaphor - "an expression of a very fluid dimension, without interference from outside.” The cover photo of a swan gracefully floating on the water was taken by Einaudi and is a lovely hint at the grace of the music within.
Underwater begins with "Luminous," a piece with a gentle glow that is distinctly Einaudi - open, smooth and understated - a tranquil start. "Rolling Like A Ball" has an easy, lighthearted spirit that keeps moving throughout - a favorite. "Flora" is somewhat darker and more ambient - almost dreamlike - with a tempo that starts out very relaxed, gradually increasing speed as the piece unfolds and ending with a whisper. "Natural Light" feels especially warm and intimate - much like sunlight coming through a window or shining through a grove of trees; another favorite! "Almost June" expresses the optimism of late spring as the days get longer, sunnier and more fun. "Wind Song" is my favorite piece on the album. Melancholy and gently expressive, it has a haunting, searching quality that I really like. The darkly mysterious "Atoms" stays mostly in the lower half of the piano keyboard, with the deep bass resonating beautifully under the ambient upper notes. Lighter and more carefree, "Nobody Knows" has an innocent, almost playful feeling - a secret between friends, perhaps. The title track is saved until the end - a deep dive to another place, swimming freely without thought, where time stops.
Underwater is more proof that many of the arts have flourished under the unfortunate pall and isolation of the pandemic - a time that has allowed many artists to slow down and let their creative juices flow. The album is available as a CD, on vinyl, to download and stream from Amazon (a printed songbook is also available), to download and stream from Apple Music/iTunes, and on many of the streaming sites including Spotify.
February 14, 2022
with (unknown artist)