The Mindful Bard – Portrait

A Band of Angels Plays Celestial Tracks, With "a Fierce Joy in the Doing"

Album: Portrait
Artists: Angèle Dubeau and La Pietà
Composer: Ludovico Einaudi

“The greatest compliment is knowing that some people have written a poem or painted a painting while listening to my music. Or that they have simply smiled at another day. I think that music can enter deep inside your soul. You are more defenceless when confronted with notes. And It’s fantastic.”
Ludovico Einaudi

“Dubeau is an exciting, dynamic fiddler . . . The performances were consistently robust and inquiring, taking nothing for granted . . . Dubeau’s well-drilled band played with agility, power, a nicely weighted sound and a fierce joy in the doing.”
– The Los Angeles Times, on Angèle Dubeau and La Pietà

Back in the eighties the late Peter Gzowski hosted a highly enjoyable television documentary of then up-and-coming violin virtuoso, Angèle Dubeau. In one scene Gzowksi, Dubeau, and her boyfriend are having dinner with Dubeau’s huge Québécois family, which I’m pretty sure numbers more than eight siblings. Her career was just taking off then.

She’s now one of the top-selling classical artists on the planet.

I was recently delighted to discover that she and I share a favourite current composer, the Italian Ludovico Einaudi (see Voice review of Essential Einaudi). A brief listen to Portrait convinced me of the serendipity of the match between Dubeau and Einaudi; the inimitably accomplished?and soulful?violinist, Angèle Dubeau, plays a 1733 Stradivarius violin and is accompanied by La Pietà, the all-girl string orchestra she assembled herself, a small band of virtuosos culled from Canada’s finest classical musicians.

Turin-born composer and pianist, Ludovico Einaudi, is extremely popular with both classical and pop music audiences, sometimes finding himself the only classical musician on a pop music stage. Once you make his music a part of your life you’ll realise how ubiquitous it is these days; if you don’t hear it on CD or at the concert hall, You’re sure to run into it on the tube, where it often graces the soundtracks of movies (notably The Untouchables), commercials, and television shows.

He’s been likened to Satie but without that composer’s sarcasm, and he’s certainly a much more approachable guy and a much less “difficult” composer. But It’s not as if Einaudi popped out of a cultural vacuum with no link to the musical experiments of the last hundred years; he trained under Lucianio Berio, a leading avant garde composer whom he deeply respected.

However, the path Einaudi forged for himself was in quite a different direction, one heavily influenced by the tacet goals of New Age music, such as soothing, calming, and emotional healing. As a result Einaudi has managed to make avant garde classical music “accessible?” a dirty word for musical purists now obliged to accept that such a thing doesn’t actually spell the end of art. (We need only remember Beethoven’s efforts to bring classical music to the masses to see that Einaudi’s artistic benevolence, welcome as it may be, is nothing new.)

Like most postmodern composers Einaudi fuses varied elements and genres in a highly experimental process, but with the exception that his work sounds comparatively classical and harmonious, never chaotic or dissonant as has been largely the mode for serious composers since the early part of the last century.

He’s also added the beautifully logical development of avoiding the longer classical forms like the symphony and fitting the trio sonata form into the convenient three or four minute lengths of songs so that they can easily form a list of tracks on an album.

Something that makes this music even more deliciously democratic is that even amateur musicians can play it. But whereas it may be easily played, It’s only rarely that such music can be played so well. Kudos to the brilliant Dubeau for not considering such music beneath her, because the result is an aesthetic achievement that can’t be matched.

It seems as if the feminine touch is especially adaptable to the interpretation of Einaudi; they play his music slightly slower and more reverently than even he does, with an even greater tenderness, if that were imaginable, and a loving attention to detail.

The best way for me to describe Dubeau and La Pietà’s interpretation of these pieces is to say that It’s like a kind of contrapuntal sighing, performed by a band of angels who are mourning the suffering on the earth and wishing to send down fragments of beauty to lift our hearts. High points: “Svanire,” “Life,” “I giorni,” and “Indaco.”

Portrait manifests five of the Mindful Bard’s criteria for music well worth a listen.

– It’s authentic, original, and delightful.
– It provides respite from a sick and cruel world, a respite enabling me to renew myself for a return to mindful artistic endeavor.
– It inspires an awareness of the sanctity of creation.
– It displays an engagement with and compassionate response to suffering.
– It makes me want to be a better artist.