Music

Ludovico Einaudi: A meditative balm to the daily grind

The critics may grumble, but Claire Jackson says the pianist is leaving his fans entranced

Ludovico Einaudi

Photo: Jordi Vidal/Redferns

Train delays, work issues – life – had made a group of now-disgruntled people late for Ludovico Einaudi’s performance at Royal Albert Hall. During the Proms – held at the same London venue – latecomers are only permitted entry in between pieces, which potentially means missing most of the first half. Good job that this wasn’t like that. Except, it was: a solo piano show at a 5,272-seater venue needs a silent audience (even when the piano is significantly amplified) and so, along with a dozen others outside Door Six, I tried not to be cross at those coming and going freely from their boxes and instead watched the grainy relay on screen. 

As the pianist’s simple and mesmeric melodies wafted over us, the person who had been berating their partner for insisting on going to the bar – and thus missing entry – finally softened. Another sat cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed. Hands intertwined. When the first round of applause rippled around the hall, we crept into the darkness, eyes transfixed on the piano on stage, mundanity forgotten.

This is the appeal of Ludovico Einaudi’s music – it has a meditative quality that, for many people, acts as a balm to the daily grind. Reading YouTube comments (not ordinarily an activity to be encouraged) reveals the impact that the Italian pianist-composer’s music has on listeners. Some thank him for helping them concentrate on a college assignment. Others thank him for saving their life.

Any artist who can provide such comfort should be celebrated, and yet – or perhaps because of – his huge success, Einaudi is rejected by many critics. For him, classical music is Door Six, and it’s not opening any time soon. Despite the odd comment (Einaudi recently told the Telegraph that “I have one kind of reaction from audiences, friends and musicians who come to my concerts… but these critics, they never even try to understand what I am doing”), the pianist continues.

His music is currently streamed over a million times a day, according to the Official Charts, and has inspired people not only to listen but to play – Einaudi albums (including his latest, Underwater, which became the fastest-streamed classical album of all time on its January 2022 release) are available as sheet music.

Einaudi has much in common with his compatriot Luciano Pavarotti, whose dalliances with light music delighted fans and bemused critics. Pavarotti’s spirit was channelled by David Webb over at Surrey’s Grange Park Opera, where the tenor sang a Nessun Dorma parody as part of Gods of the Game. Commissioned by Sky Arts to coincide with the upcoming World Cup, the new opera follows footballers (and childhood friends) Viko (played by Michel de Souza) and Eva (Milly Forrest) in the run-up to the 2030 World Cup, as the pair battle corruption on and off the pitch. With intrigue, theatre, and divas galore (Wagatha Christie trial staging, anyone?), football is a perfect topic for an opera. 

The strong musical connections were forged by a five-a-side composing team (Aran O’Grady, Ábel Esbenshade, Blasio Kavuma and Lucy Armstrong, working alongside Guildhall professor Julian Philips) who have woven in some of the arias popularised by the Three Tenors after their performance at the 1990 World Cup (see left). The score also features football chants, some sung by a 40-strong chorus of pre-recorded real-life football fans. And the timings? Two acts of 45 mins, with kick-off – in the case of the live shows – at 3:30pm…

Gods of the Game will air on Sky Arts and Freeview on November 13

Claire Jackson is a writer and editor

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine out this week. Support your local vendor by buying today! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Soweto Kinch on ripping up the jazz rulebook and how his new BBC show is building community
Soweto Kinch
Music

Soweto Kinch on ripping up the jazz rulebook and how his new BBC show is building community

Grassroots music venues need your help to survive now more than ever. Here's why
The Nefarious Picaroons play at Fiery Bird in Woking
Venue Watch

Grassroots music venues need your help to survive now more than ever. Here's why

How a band formed in an asylum hotel is giving refugees hope: 'Each note comes from the heart'
Ardavan of The Unknowns
Music

How a band formed in an asylum hotel is giving refugees hope: 'Each note comes from the heart'

Iron Maiden legend Bruce Dickinson: 'You don’t need some rock star saying war is a bad thing'
Bruce Dickinson
Letter To My Younger Self

Iron Maiden legend Bruce Dickinson: 'You don’t need some rock star saying war is a bad thing'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know