Kirsty Allison writes in praise of pianos:
There’s a cloud-haired Dracula in town tonight – sweeping onto stage, long Nosferatu piano fingers drifting through the curtains of two sold out shows at the hexagonal temple of the Union Chapel.
Holding one hand on heart, before raising all the grandiose from the core beneath La Scala, with a perfectly subtle metered scale of heartie guts and hellish pain, EINAUDI is reciting the first chapter of a project called Seven Days Walking – and for anyone who has ever walked all night towards a solstice light – they will be reminded of that unalloyed feat – and cloaked by a phone ban, there are fewer things more relaxing and mind-freeing, out of bed, than the conjuring of perfect music, phonelessness, and the higher breadth of a chapel, and the fuller breath of a prayer.
Disrupted only by streetlights on the outer windows, interrupted by wailing blue police sirens, classical music always makes me think of nature – translating the breathe of survival – mind chasing butterflies into forests, falling with compost, to air, and re-birth – a sense of Medici power striding through, to death. The magic of summoning romantic visions, and loss, and recovery – of harrowing beauty, the piano’s power to calm as a 1001 Nights Tale, or happy ending (unless it’s a March of war down imperial boulevards, or Waltz when I’m taken to ballrooms in estates I’ll never own) – the A-class of classical is a stargate: it allows a meditation beyond the zodiac, raising one’s eyes to the chapel ceiling, giant arsehole filigree sea urchin, aligning spirit of womb with sahasraran eye. Fire torn skies of poise, playfulness, and pain.
Ludovico Einaudi unleashes an exact humanity on each pure pressing of the keys, building up over the course of his latest works, tracing the first day of walking – towards a great final crescendo of previously restrained power. Holding back all till then.
Hailed as the Daddy of goth-romo classical music, it’s easy to say Ludovico Einaudi is like Gaudi – because it rhymes – but also because he restructures the classic, whilst never losing its form or promise.
Accompanied by male servant shadows of a cellist and viola/violinist, this talent is a refined beauty. It’s not as if he’s a mad rebel against the traditions of pathos through arpeggios and repetition, it’s just he knows the rules, and updates them, classically. And in the concentration of this moment – there’s a sensitivity here wider than the binary limitations of electrified sounds, and a defiance drawn from the limitations of skill required to play an instrument – it’s bow n arrow rather than drone bomb.
Classical music appears to be receiving a return – a few days later, in less gothic light, the fresh youth of an unbroken heart is found away from the Chapel with a saunter down the Kings Road. A 20-year old Icelandic young genius – who looks like the star of his own indie film, cazuuuuallly reclining back on the basement’s disco stairs for his first full London show, Gabríel Ólafs is accompanied by girls who appear to have been bred on the freshest polar oxygen on the planet, and rolled in hot springs beneath northern lights.
The same set up as their elder – a cello, viola, violin, although Olafs, with his pretty blonde indie hair, and super-brightest boy in the class-vibes has an addition of a xylophone and sampler neon pad, used intermittently. His forthcoming album goes beyond the inherent filmscore pop which will find its way to filmscores such as This Is England, as per Einaudi’s work has before him, or ads, the compositions echo EINAUDI, but the kid is pure, his bones not brutalised, still bending in the springtime, the melting of ice, the spectrum of light caught on thawing icicles from a pine tree – the anthropic principle of music, being a reflection of environment – or projected environment, Gabriel’s abilities to sound as though there are a kaleidoscope of hands working the black n white keys comes with a jazz of hipness around him, with members of Crass in the audience, The Sneaker Pimps, he has been picked up by Björk’s manager Derek Birkett, of One Little Indian Records. (You may also be interested to find Poppy Ackroyd and, if you’ve never visited Union Chapel – try the Daylight Music concerts they do for donations on Saturdays.)
The purity of a piano – a cello, a viola, a violin, in our times of prostituting flashing lights on screens, whoring ourselves by implication to rise above the noise, or at least participate in the life which we see the world through, that struggle is forgotten with these forces of concentration, and practice, and magic: ALL HAIL THEE NEW MYSTICS.
For dates and further information:
A few tickets remain in London for Einaudi on 5+6 August, with many more selling out fast internationally.
Olafs returns to Chelsea’s Pheasantry on 23 May.
WORDS: KIRSTY ALLISON