the composer takes on the snobbery of classical music


The UK has been a major market for him. No fewer than four of the top 10 classic chart albums are by him. He acknowledges that Classic FM has played a crucial role in this story: the station has broadcast Einaudi regularly since its beginnings in 1992.

Einaudi has often described his music as “playable” and “connected to today”. Surely, then, if it’s so simple, can’t anyone take it and copy it? Isn’t it, as some observers have claimed, devaluing the currency of classical music? The key, according to Einaudi, is what is meant by “easy” or “simple”.

“They think it’s easy but it’s not,” he replies. “It is not easy to make a simple gesture that condenses several thoughts into a single line. You could say that Satie is simple. You could even say that In a Silent Way by Miles Davis is simple. But it is beautifully simple. A work of art.”

Tall, elegant, neatly and sensibly dressed, Einaudi’s default frame is humble, but sometimes a bit of ego comes to the surface. He insists on the fact that he would not pretend to compare himself to Picasso but he nevertheless makes the following analogy: “Sometimes you look at a drawing of an animal. And you might say to yourself, “I can do this. It’s easy.’ But behind that lie many years of work.

His whole relationship with classical music has been colored by what he sees as the inherent orthodoxies he encountered when he started. Serialism in particular resembled the straitjacket he was always going to refuse to put on: “I told myself that music is my place. It’s a fantasy world, I want to explore the possibilities. And freedom. I didn’t want to be like a caged artist, having these voices telling me what to do and what not to do. You write an octave and it’s not good because Schoenberg has created a world of dodecaphony. The melody is prohibited. It is no longer for our century.

For him, the rise of Philip Glass and Steve Reich seemed to give him the green light to evolve in the direction he wanted to go, away from the academy, towards the freedom to express what he wanted.

Freedom of expression is something of a recurring theme in his distinguished Turinese family. Her grandfather served as Italy’s second president in the aftermath of World War II, and her imperious, leftist father founded and ran Italy’s leading independent publisher.

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