Ludovico Einaudi, when the piano makes more streams than rap

Ludovico Einaudi, when the piano makes more streams than rap

Nearly ten million listeners per month on Spotify. After Maneskin and Meduza (both over twenty million) the most listened to Italian artist in the world is Ludovico Einaudi. To give you a sense of proportion: Geolier, dominator of the Italian charts in 2023, has about half of its listeners, as does Marracash: five million-odd each – obviously almost all Italian, like those of Sfera Ebbasta, which has few less than 8. The Ricchi e Poveri, at the center of a revival abroad and the artists of Sanremo 2024 with the largest audience on Spotify, are at 5 and a half million
Einaudi is sold out in Italy: he has just performed 17 concerts at the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan last December, and on 10 July he will return to the Arena in Verona after 10 years. But his audience is above all European: he is much loved in England, where his international fortune began. But if the Roman band and the trio of electronic producers are a relatively recent discovery of foreign audiences, the Piedmontese pianist has been listened to abroad for over 20 years: his numbers on the platforms (even on TikTok his “Experience” has dozens of million views) are the consequence of a long career. Other than dance and bel canto – the two classic export products of our local music. The piano and Italian “neoclassical” are without borders – as demonstrated by the case of Fabrizio Paterlini, almost 3 million listeners a month.
The piano, Einaudi explains to me, is “a musical form, which has no national connotations”, and mentions German colleagues such as Max Richter or Nils Frahm, Icelandic ones such as Olafur Arnalds. “I think there is a need for this type of listening, more freely, without a text that binds you to a meaning. It’s music that gives you the freedom to think about who you are.”

Your success abroad is a phenomenon consolidated for years. How was it born?

The interest abroad in my music began about 25 years ago. The first country that reacted was England, to my great pleasure: musically in my youth I always loved everything that came from there, from the Beatles onwards. When that contact happened it was very, very nice to follow that wave. Then other territories opened up, such as Germany. It was more difficult with France, it changed there when I did the soundtrack for “Almost Friends” in 2011. From then on the public opened up even more on an international level.

You have a rocking past: you made your debut at the end of the 70s in Venegoni & Co, a band that recorded a couple of records for Cramps, the historic label of Area and Finardi.

Yes, let’s say it’s a double past: on the one hand I had a family tradition of classical music, with my mother who played the piano and her father who was a conductor and composer. Then I grew up right in the years of the explosion of pop, rock, the Beatles and the Stones, Jimi Hendrix. I played the guitar a lot, I moved to Milan: I also played at the historic concert for Demetrio Stratos.

How do you explain the success of piano-based music abroad?

I think it is a musical form, that of instrumental music linked to the piano, which has no national connotations.

There is a whole international movement: in Germany there is Max Richter, there is Nils Frahm, in Iceland there is Olafur Arnalds. This language comes from minimalism, it touches chords that range between classical music, rock and ambient music. I think there is a need for this type of listening, more freely, without a text that binds you to a meaning. It’s music that leaves you the freedom to think about who you are, to connect it to your background, which is different for everyone. Everyone finds themselves in some way, dialogues with who they are and with themselves.

These productions have also been at the center of controversy from more traditional musical circles, dismissed as too simple music. What do you think?

The language today is simply different than the classical one: it is more essential, more simplified, but it is an aesthetic choice. It’s like comparing modern architecture to baroque architecture: clearly there is a simplification, there are straighter, more essential lines, but it is done intentionally. Otherwise one would have to start redoing the past or, let’s say, looking for that complexity necessary to recreate a world which however no longer corresponds to what that world was. Simplification seems to me to be an advantage.

Your productions contaminate the piano with other instruments: electronics, strings. What is the difference with the solo piano?

I like to cultivate different aspects of music in parallel: clearly when you have the instruments you achieve a richness of sound and a dynamic power that the piano alone clearly cannot have.

But at the same time the piano is also very fascinating: it’s like writing a monologue. It is an introspective practice, it is like a search into the depths of the mind, to reach nuances, create suspensions of time without having to explain anything to anyone. Then there are musicians with whom I have been playing for a long time and with whom I have such an understanding that I am able to achieve these results with them too.

Composing for cinema was also fundamental in your career. Your new soundtrack has just been released, for a French film, “La tresse”. When was this passion born?

A passion born out of an initial interest of mine, then progressed somewhat automatically based on the requests I receive and then always evaluate a little in relation to the other commitments I have. Last year I worked a lot in this field, I scored two films, one is “La tresse” which is coming out now, one will be released later. Then a Mexican film called “A cielo abierto” was presented in Venice and it is a film written by Guillermo Arriaga, who had made “21 grams”, “Babel” and “Amores Perros”.

You write and publish a lot, your discography is very rich. Is composing something that comes easily to you?

It comes easy to me but at the same time it requires a lot of energy, a lot of concentration, a lot of time. The more time passes, the more I become more and more strict with myself: I write down lots of ideas and then I have to dig through all these ideas to understand which one to follow through to completion.

Last year the expanded reissue of “Time Lapse” was released, perhaps one of your most beloved albums. What did that record mean for you, for your career?

It’s an album I worked a lot on, with many nuances, many stories that come together.

It’s the album I made after my experience as a concert artist at the Notte della Taranta, so there are also rhythms that derive from that experience. It is a work with many faces: the orchestra, the electronics, the solo piano. It contains “Experience”, which is the song that perhaps gave me the most worldwide boost in recent years: it entered the cinema, it also did crazy numbers on TikTok.
I continue to like it, it gives me pleasure to listen to it and also play it, now this year we have revived it in Milan before Christmas, at Dal Verme. In some way much of the music of “Time Lapse” will also be the content of the concert that we will also do at the Verona Arena.

On July 10th you play at the Verona Arena, where you return after 10 years. How do you adapt your music to open spaces versus a theater?

However, every summer I always do a round of open-air concerts, last year I was also in another famous arena, that of Nimes in France, and in Berlin. In the summer, among the warmth of the public, there is a very beautiful emotion that rises. The sound is different, for sure, but it’s an emotion that overwhelms you for a whole host of different reasons.

I remember seeing Keith Jarrett live and he would stop at the slightest cough from the audience. Do you like hearing from the public?

I like the warmth of the audience: the roar of 10,000 people cannot help but excite.