The Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi was born in 1955 and studied with the avant-garde composer Luciano Berio. He is a puzzle to many listeners, not least since the release of his 1996 solo album Le onde. Based on Virginia Woolf’s novel The Waves, this release promoted a view of Einaudi as the embodiment of veiled melodic still lifes and of secretive but sincere music that has an underlying tension to it. Since 1996 many listeners have been swept away by Einaudi’s distinctive musical language, allowing him to cast his spell on an increasingly large circle of supporters. “My music has a profound connection to all that I do,” Einaudi once said. “I find that it is unfulfilling simply to write music for music’s sake. Music has to move me emotionally and spiritually, and this is also true of the audiences that I have in mind.”
“Ludovico Einaudi’s music has proved to be increasingly important for me and has gained far greater depth than I initially thought it would,” says the harpist Lavinia Meijer, a Dutch national who, born in 1983, is of Korean descent. She was two when she was adopted by a Dutch family and nine when she started to play the harp. Two years later she enrolled as a Young Artist at the Utrecht Conservatory. She made her first recording in 2004 and since then has released four other albums, all of them devoted to a varied classical repertory. Her previous album was titled Metamorphosis/The Hours and featured works by Philip Glass, achieving platinum status in The Netherlands. The winner of numerous awards, Lavinia Meijer was very soon being hailed as a star, not only conquering classical concert halls such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Vienna Musikverein, the Seoul Arts Center and New York’s Carnegie Hall but also triumphing on well-known stages associated with the Amsterdam rock scene such as Paradiso and Melkweg.
It was during a particularly turbulent period triggered by the success of her Philip Glass release, when she was giving countless concerts and was in constant demand by the media, that Lavinia Meijer met Ludovico Einaudi. “To work closely with a composer, as I had already done with Glass, is an exciting and priceless part of my search for new harp music,” she explains. “Performer and composer share ideas and inspire one another. For me, this is of great importance in continuing to grow as an artist. Einaudi is a modest person and he took a lot of time for me. Above all he stressed the spontaneity and flow of his music. ‘Take whatever liberties you feel like taking,’ he told me. I am grateful to him for his advice, which helped me to draw closer to his music. I realized that I could lose myself in it. I was obsessed by my search for a way to play his music in all its beauty while at the same time bringing my own personal insights into it. I knew that I would one day record this music and, indeed, that it was inevitable that I should do so. Ultimately I discovered myself in Einaudi’s music. In my interpretations I take clear personal decisions when I have the feeling that the music points both to my past and to my future. When I play this music, I am reminded of my early years as a harpist when I generally played folk music. The harp is basically a folk instrument, but at a certain moment in its history it also became a ‘classical’ instrument. Since then I have regarded the harp as the one instrument that combines both the earthly and the spiritual. I rediscovered this connection in Einaudi’s music. Its accessibility immediately appealed to me. There is also a self-evident openness that allows the music to pour forth in a free and uninhibited manner. His music affects so many aspects of our lives. I have again noticed that I really touch my audiences with these pieces. Music has to be a personal experience, and in this sense too Einaudi’s music is a perfect match for me. I can share my feelings with my audiences.”
The natural flow of Divenire that sets the tone for this release features alongside the emotional romanticism of Le onde, the minimalist language of Una mattina, which will be familiar from the soundtrack to the film The Intouchables, the pictorial power of Snow Prelude, the tasteful chromaticisms of Oltremare and the folklike associations of Passaggio. “These are all works that have triggered personal associations in me. Sometimes there are links to folk music, but another piece will then sound like a song, and I feel like a singer-songwriter telling a personal story to an audience that then becomes a part of my life. At my concerts I find that this interaction between the audience and myself is important.”
In Lavinia Meijer’s hands Ludovico Einaudi’s compositions acquire a new significance, whether it be the subtle tension that provides an overarching structure for Ora, the refreshing view of I giorni, the surprising shifts of Dietro l’incanto, the power of Nuvole bianche or the classical beauty of Due tramonti. And just as was the case with her vivid and penetrating interpretations of Philip Glass’s compositions, so she has proved herself a pioneer in this field, too. “Jazz, pop, electronic music, theatre, I am keen to explore them all in order to discover what I can use here. I always try to expand my horizons. I’m not afraid of defying expectations. It was this that brought me to Philip Glass and the world of minimalism, a kind of music about which I knew very little before my encounter with Glass. The present project has a different focus to it. Einaudi’s music encourages me to experiment and to play in a way that is improvisatory in character. This became even clearer to me when I met Einaudi and he played passages from his works on the piano. ‘Let it flow,’ he kept saying to me.”
“This sense of flow and the feeling of freedom were two things I took away with me from my meeting with Einaudi and that follow on from the way in which I too have developed in the field of improvisation. In 2009 I returned to Korea and met my biological father, and it was then that I started to hear and perceive music in a freer way. This journey made me more grown-up and more self-assured. I brought this freedom and this experience of life to Einaudi’s compositions, with the result that there is a reciprocal interplay between the music that I am playing and my own personal experience. My experience of Einaudi’s music will also be carried forward into other projects: his music speaks to me through my fingers and through my harp and overcomes all limitations. The works that are presented here fill me with both joy and deep emotion, and it is this that I should like to share with my audiences – in the hope that I can solve some of the puzzles that are bound up with Einaudi’s music. Or perhaps it would be even better if I were able to magnify those puzzles.”
Translation: Stewart Spencer