Ludovico Einaudi @ Sydney Opera House
Reviewed on Wednesday February 15 (photo by Dan Boud)
Truth be told, I find it difficult to review classical music at the best of times – and let's be clear, catching Ludovico Einaudi at a packed-to-the-sails Opera House was just such an occasion – since my knowledge of composition and context is a touch uneven. What exactly is the canon here? Is this man taking his cues from Mozart or Schubert?
A more fitting comparison, for me at least, might be Spielberg. There is something so very cinematic to Einaudi's work, a sense of story that lends itself to the most vivid flights of imaginative fancy. To hear the Italian master is to be given the soundtrack to your own private epic, and it certainly doesn't hurt that the darkened auditorium of the Concert Hall was not unlike a cinema; a sprawl of strangers rapt in their seats, following score as you ordinarily follow story.
Even so, there was something slightly skewed across the performance that took me some time to identify. Einaudi is the most streamed classical artist in the world, and such popularity is evidenced in his audience; I can't recall ever seeing such a wide range of ages at a gig. But taken as a whole, there is a repetitiveness to the performance; a reliance on a handful of key compositional elements (like rhythmic ticking across various instruments – bells, guitar, piano) to lend urgency to each song. Individually the effect is startling, but linked across two hours of music it begins to homogenise where each composition is leading.
Einaudi is also the undisputed master of the melodramatic silhouette. The final note of any performance must seemingly be accompanied by searching hands slowly rising from the keys in backlit triumph, or by an aloft fist, a head turned up and to the side in contemplation; it's a small complaint, but a regular one. Indeed, my principal gripes all stem from a lack of variation, of spontaneity.
It didn't prevent me from truly loving the stirring sweep of Einaudi in full flight, but the problem with encouraging such cinematic pondering in your audience is the threat of having their minds wander from the moment, and despite the standing ovation and the undisguised weeping of many around me, too often were we left to our own devices.
Does watching Einaudi live offer anything distinct from what you'll experience streaming him? Within the music itself, not really. But there is such pleasure to be had in allowing the compositions to carry you away; of seeing each song swell to life. It was beautiful, and it was frustrating.