Ludovico Einaudi

Una Mattina

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Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi writes and performs original compositions that are difficult to classify. He has been grouped with the minimalists, but has rejected that label, and in fact the experience of hearing his music is quite different from that of listening to Philip Glass. Einaudi (who sometimes goes by that single name, but not here) has been extraordinarily popular in Europe, and his CDs have been finding U.S. distribution as well; Una Mattina (One Morning), originally released in 2004, is a good introduction to his style. With the minimalists it shares an extreme economy of language, but that economy is applied to pop gestures rather than to basic musical materials. It's as if Glass or Reich had set out to make a minimalist-pop album -- and then decided to shop it to one of the new age labels: the mood is consistently and almost unchangingly meditative. But there is none of the virtuoso improvisation of pianists like George Winston; the musical language is kept tightly reined in, so that a small shift in harmony, say, takes on the weight of a major musical event. Sample Resta con me (Stay with Me), track 3, to get the flavor of the whole; it seems as though it's going to evolve into a pop piano instrumental, but it doesn't quite. All the music is for Einaudi's own piano, played solo, except that there are some very subtle touches of cello, approaching full partnership in track 9, Dna. Nothing takes this out of the realm of what used to be called mood music, which means that most listeners will know whether they're going to like it or not. But it isn't copying anybody else.

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