Welcome to #TBT Mixtape, Billboard’s weekly series that showcases artists’ very own throwback-themed playlists exclusive to Billboard‘s Spotify account. The curated set features the artists’ favorite tracks from their youth and childhood.
This week’s spin comes from Ludovico Einaudi. The Italian composer and pianist is certified as the world’s most streamed classical musician, with over 2 billion collective spins to date of his catalog, and over 3 million monthly fans on Spotify. A synch and soundtrack darling, Einaudi has produced scores for European classics including This Is England and The Intouchables as well as soundtrack placements in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, HBO’s Sharp Objects, Showtime’s Listen To Me Marlon, and the Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary I’m Still Here. The star composer’s fans include Nicki Minaj, who walks onstage to his music, Iggy Pop, Ellie Goulding, as well as many experimental producers — Professor Green, Mogwai and Starkey — who have either sampled or remixed his works in the past.
Across five decades, Einaudi has become a global live force, with regular tours through Europe and North America, as well as a historic 2016 gig performing his composition Elegy for the Arctic on a Greenpeace float at the edge of the Arctic Ocean to raise awareness for global warming. After making his debut at NYC’s Carnegie Hall this June, Einaudi will next hit stops in the U.K., Spain, France, Germany and his native Italy this fall, before reaching Australia — including a two-night stretch at the iconic Sydney Opera House (Jan. 20-21, 2020) — and the United Arab Emirates’ Dubai Opera House (Feb. 3, 2020).
This March, the composer inked a new deal with the Universal Music Group-owned jazz/classical imprint Decca Records, a past partner for the musician who has previously released six of his albums over 15 years. He released his ambitious new effort Seven Days Walking last week (Sept. 20) via the imprint, with a forthcoming box set of all seven parts to be released this November. Part one of the series, Day One, became the fastest-streamed classical album of all time this March during the first week of release, exceeding over 2 million streams on release day.
Recorded between studios in Germany and London, the effort’s aim was to capture the “essence” of his daily walks in early 2018 through the Swiss Alps, focused mainly on the stillness he experienced, as well as the slight changes in the landscape, from “fox tracks in the snow” to “a birds song.” “In January last year I often went for long walks in the mountains, always following more or less the same trail,” he says. “It snowed heavily, and my thoughts roamed free inside the storm, where all shapes, stripped bare by the cold, lost their contours and colours. Perhaps that feeling of extreme essence was the origin of this album.”
To celebrate Seven Days Walking, Einaudi put together this week’s #TBT Mixtape to highlight his wide ranging sonic influences, featuring takes on Bach and Chopin as well as left-field tracks from Massive Attack, Prince, Miles Davis and more.
Give the dynamic playlist a spin and check out Einaudi’s track-by-track guide to the mix below.
Glenn Gould; Johann Sebastian Bach, Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, Aria (1955)
“I love the extreme precision, the sound search and control he has on this performance. Compared to the 1981 version it is more fast and vibrant.”
Massive Attack, “Teardrop”
“I like the sparse combination of the musical elements: the beat, the bass piano, the plucked strings. They create a perfect sense of desire and wonderfully prepare the entrance of the melody of the voice.”
Daniel Hope & BBC Symphony Orchestra; Bela Bartok, “Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56: IV. Horn Dance”
“One of the great examples in the history of transcribing folk music.”
The Beatles, “Tomorrow Never Knows“
“If you consider how was the world in 1966, The Beatles represented a colorful, joyful and revolutionary option.”
Jean Rondeau; Johann Sebastian Bach, “Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, BWV 1052: I. Allegro”
“This is an incredible interpretation, it brings Bach into our time. An intense and determined sense of rhythm combined with an extremely natural flow, it’s just perfect.”
Angelo Badalamenti, “Twin Peaks Theme: Instrumental”
“I love the minimal arrangement of this music, it demonstrates that an idea can be realized very simply if it’s strong in half.”
Prince, “Purple Rain“
“It’s such a visionary song. I love the universal feeling that he evokes, so spiritual and touching. Not to mention the outstanding vocal performance. And what about the strings in the Coda? Superlative!”
Robin Williams; François Couperin, “Les Baricades Mistérieuses”
“This piece alway sounds to me as it could have been written today. It’s mesmerizing, intriguing and enigmatic.”
U2, “Where The Streets Have No Name”
“In the 80’s, I was kind of depressed about what happened to rock music. Until I entered in a record shop in Milan and asked if there was something new to listen to and the guy started to play this song on vinyl. I remember the hauntingly, hopelessly romantic and warm sensation that instantly captured me.”
Donovan, “Season of the Witch”
“Donovan is so great that I never understand why it’s not as popular today as it should be. This song is a classic, great guitar sound, great voice!”
Toumani Diabate’s Symmetric Orchestra, “Mali Sadio”
“This was the piece of music that gave me the sense of the African blues. When I went to Mali I heard this song played to me by Toumani in his black car. I immediately started to feel the nostalgia in it and when I came back home I couldn’t stop to listen to it in all of its many versions. This is a superb version of a classic song.”
Glenn Gould, Vladimir Golschmann; Johann Sebastian Bach, “Keyboard Concerto No.5 in F Minor, BWV 1056: II. Largo”
“The way this music develops and evolves for me is like looking at the movements of a monkey jumping from one tree to the other in the forest.”
Pink Floyd, “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”
“How a rock band could create such a unique sound basically using the same instrumentation of other rock bands, but in a completely different way.”
Daniel Hope & Simon Mulligan; Arvo Pärt, “Spiegel im Spiegel”
“Where the spiritual sublimely dialogues with mathematic.”
YUNDI; Frédéric Chopin, “24 Préludes, Op.28: 15 in D Flat Major (‘Raindrop’)”
“This is one of the pieces that established my musical taste and imprint. My mother used to play it regularly at home.”
Daniel Hope, Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin & Simon Halsey; Arvo Pärt, “Fratres for Violin, String Orchestra and Percussion”
“Another sublime composition, it is ritual and spiritual, a masterpiece.”
Miles Davis, “In a Silent Way”
“This is when Miles Davis started the ‘fusion’ with rock and electric music. It is also great to hear the experimentation of new musical structures.”
Glenn Gould; Johann Sebastian Bach, “Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 (1981 Recording) Aria”
“Compared to the 1955 recording, it’s interesting to hear, still with a very precise and extremely controlled performance, a more calm and reflective approach.”