July 3, 2020
One of the greatest and most appreciated oddities of the coronavirus pandemic are self-broadcasts on social media and new “homemade” recordings by world class musicians. Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi’s latest digital collection, 12 Songs From Home, was recorded on his iPhone after holding intimate evening concerts streamed live during March and April of 2020.
Compiled and released digitally on May 8 for streaming only at this time, the blend of new-age American minimalism, classical compositional structures, and contemporary pop-tune/film-score sensibilities results in a meditative album that highlights Einaudi’s most recognizable qualities. Lauded by critics and audiences as a pianist of articulate technique and a composer of numerous film scores full of expressivity and pop music’s hooks, loops, and accessibility — it’s easy to understand why Einaudi came to be featured as the only classical musician to play at Apple’s first iTunes festival in 2007. While participating in the subsequent world tour, he continued to compose new music and perform independently, including a European and American tour with a stop at the Royal Albert Hall, a concert recorded live and later released as a double CD and DVD.
Multiple appearances and recordings made since that time have had Einaudi performing his Elegy for the Arctic, commissioned by Greenpeace, on a floating platform on a great slab of ice in the Arctic Ocean and establishing an annual 10-day concert series in Milan to “give back something to a city that has given me so much,” as quoted from his website.
Interestingly, the pianist’s wide-ranging curiosity and mastery of multiple approaches to contemporary classical and world music developed through a number of cross-genre, collaborative projects, yet spiral to simplicity in this new concept album. Perhaps the album is intended to be a deliberate counterpoint to the chaos of Covid-19 and the dissonant cacophony caused by politicians, government leaders, and health officials worldwide who seek to provide answers to the public?
Regardless, there is earnest depth and abundant solace to be found in the 12 songs. “Gravity” has weight as it rolls with perpetual forward momentum; “High Heels” totters with agility in its high-register notes and a “to be continued,” lingering conclusion; “A Sense of Symmetry” indeed has balance, like a well-played soliloquy; and at 11:05 minutes — roughly double the length of the album’s other tracks — “Oltremare” translates from Italian to “Overseas” in English, and the composition’s wavelike sonic journey leaves final notes that feel like the skilled, firm docking of a schooner.
During the topsy-turvy times of what looks to be lockdown 1.0, 2.0, and beyond, listeners best hope might be that Einaudi resumes his evening broadcasts and eventually, 12 Songs, Volume II becomes available.