Preview: Ludovico Einaudi

The crossover king returns

Rock star classical musicians are rare, but pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi defies categorisation. His spacious, atmospheric music aims to soothe the heart, not stimulate the brain, while his concerts include multimedia effects and backing instruments such as guitars, drums, even tuning forks in water. This month, his wildly successful Elements tour comes to Beijing.

Einaudi’s father was a publisher, his grandfather the former president of Italy, but it was his mother who shaped his path by starting him on piano at age four. By 16 he was composing; a few years later, the die-hard Beatles and Jimi Hendrix fan was studying at Milan’s Conservatorio Verdi, blending rock, pop, baroque, and folk music into his work. 'I knew I wanted to be close to music,' he says. 'But it took a while for me to find my way.'

Composer of countless film and television scores, his work straddles the line between soundtrack and concert hall fare, but in the end, audiences that have rejected the aural complexity of contemporary classical shout 'Ludo, Ludo' until he returns for his encore. 'After the avant-garde, the post avant-garde, the minimalism, today it is more difficult to define a direction – maybe not even necessary,' says Einaudi. 'I think the question is to understand the role of music in our society.'

The role of composers, however, is clear. 'To achieve a new sound, you have to experiment, and remember you are playing with a very strong machine of emotions,' he says. 'Ideally, it is the balance between all the elements – mind, body, and soul.'