A solo pianist whose music is as tender and soulful as his family tree is distinct and impressive, Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi concentrates on song forms first, mood-setters second in his uplifting instrumental excursions. The music pushes right up against the soothing improvisations one hears at spas, but shifts in melody and a verse-chorus-bridge structure reminds that he is not making up these pieces on the spot and that each has a strong story-telling component.
Program was wisely selected in his 90-minute set at Largo, capped by a slightly extended reading of “Andare,” which plays out at seven minutes and two seconds on his latest release “Divenire.” As with so many of his pieces, he settles in on the slower side of mid-tempo, allowing passages to melt atop one another rather than abruptly shift, often given the aural illusion of a scene change. Lyrical and linear, the repetition associated with minimalism peers in from time to time in the higher registers, played as if approaching from a barely visible distance.
Overall, though, his points of reference are not all that different than those of Radiohead or Sigur Ros. This is ultimately pop music he is performing and at times his chord changes and timbral decisions echo the work of Christopher O’Riley, the classical pianist who has tackled the work of Radiohead, Elliott Smith and Nick Drake from a solo piano perspective.
His life story certainly helps pull in crowds such as the full house that greeted him at Largo. Einaudi’s grandfather was the first president of Italy, dad was a respected economist and his brother is becoming a significant producer of Barolo, the majestic Italian wine from Piemonte. Robert Parker noted the 2004 Einaudi Barolo “Costa Grimaldi” “is endowed with an attractive plumpness” and “offers superb balance, poise and harmony.” The same could be said about Ludovico’s music.
Prominent in Europe, Einaudi is on his first tour of the U.S. and will perform at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on Tuesday.