EINAUDI: “Taranta Project” – Ludovico Einaudi, piano/Rome Film Orch. /var. soloists (TrackList follows) – Ponderosa

LUDOVICO EINAUDI: “Taranta Project” – Ludovico Einaudi, piano/Rome Film Orchestra/various soloists (TrackList follows) – Ponderosa CD130 (Distr. by Harmonia mundi), 76:23, (5/12/15) ***1/2:

I have been at least a ‘passive’ fan of the Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi since stumbling across one of his works, quite accidentally, on an album of short, beautiful tunes from a number of sources by violinist Daniel Hope. I have since acquired a few of his solo albums and the thing that sticks to almost any listener is that his music – his improvisations in most cases – are indeed lovely and make for excellent casual listening and do not beg for lots of analysis.

Typically, Einaudi’s own keyboard stylings owe a lot to someone like George Winston and his own piano skills seem to be somewhere in between those of Winston and Michael Nyman; let’s say. (We’re not playing Rachmaninov here.) This album is still very pleasurable and not too complex a listening experience but this does take us in a little different direction than we usually get from Einaudi.

Per publicity notes for this album, Ludovico Einaudi was invited, in 2010, to direct the orchestra of the La Notte Della Taranta (“Night of the Taranta”) festival in Salento, Italy. Embarking on a mission to reinvent traditional Salentine music, Einaudi invited a few fellow musicians to share in the adventure, including kora master Ballake Sissoko, guitarist Justin Adams, ritti player Juldeh Camara, Turkish mey player Mercan Dede, cellist Redi Hasa and violinist Mauro Durante. The resulting collaboration of these great musicians resulted in a huge hit. After taking the show on tour, the decision to document this experiment as “The Taranta Project” is the result.

Certainly, this is not the first attempt for a new-age/light classical artist taking on some ‘world music’ forms infused with rock or para-minimalism. There are some stunningly successful examples ranging from Vangelis to Philip Glass to Yanni to Michael Nyman. I must say, just on entertainment value alone, this collection by Einaudi is one of the better ones.

Just for reference, I learned that the taranta dance ritual and suite has healing and mystical origins derived long ago (at least the 18th century) for, by legend, curing the poisonous bites of tarantula and black widow spiders. The fast 6/8 version typified in a lot of Italian ‘tarantelli’ for a number of instruments has interested classical composers for a long time going back to Corelli and beyond. This collection includes several arrangements by Einaudi of traditional songs as well as some original melodies.

Interestingly, Einaudi’s approach extends beyond Italy. The song “Tonio Yima” is West African and Mercan Dede’s contribution “Nar I-Seher” is a Turkish Sufi imagining of the tarantula myth.

The album contains studio work as well as some live cuts. “Santu Paulu”, the Finale, is a live recording with the Rome Film Orchestra and the closing ‘epilogue’ uses Einaudi on piano and vocalist Alessia Tondo.

In many ways, this album reminded me of Philip Glass’ Orion – written for the Olympics as well as a Yanni concert I saw live many years ago. I mean these references as compliments to the net effect as well as to give a bit of reference to those who do not know Einaudi’s work.

Many may still prefer his very muted, quieter solo piano albums; for the purists if you will. However, if you have never heard any of Ludovico Einaudi’s work, this might interest you enough to go check out more. Very entertaining!

TrackList:

  1. 1. Introducio ad regnum Tarantulae
  2. 2. Taranta
  3. 3. Fimmene
  4. 4. Nazzu Nazzu
  5. 5. Choros
  6. 6. Core Meu
  7. 7. Tonio Yima/Riorolla
  8. 8. Mamma La Rondinella
  9. 9. Preludio/Nar I-Seher
  10. 10. Ferma Zitella
  11. 11. Santa Paulu/Finale
  12. 12. Nuvole Bianche

—Daniel Coombs

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