Reflections Ralph Zurmuhle 2014 / Ralph Zurmuhle 68’22”
Since I listen to so many piano recordings, I have a lot of favorite pianist/composers, but if I had to give a short list of my top ten favorites, Ralph Zurmuhle would certainly be on that list. The Swiss-born composer has the most expressive, magical touch on the piano keys and creates music that is equally expressive and magical. Reflections is Zurmuhle’s fifth album to date, following his 2011 eQuinox. Zurmuhle has been composing film music for about twenty years, and his music can say so much with a minimum number of notes. Subtle yet very passionate, Ralph Zurmuhle simply takes musical artistry to its highest level. When composing, he combines the fluidity and freedom of improvisation with refinement and development, giving his music the best of both. Most of the music on Reflections is on the slow, introspective side, but when a piece requires a faster touch or more dramatic expression, it’s there. A one-word evaluation of this album would be “WOW!!!”
Reflections begins with “La Plana,” a nine-minute exploration that slowly and gracefully tells a story of great beauty and peace - a true reflection. This album is dedicated to Zurmuhle’s father and the second track is a loving tribute called “My Father’s Eyes.” Zurmuhle paints a musical portrait of a man with a sparkle in his eyes, a light-hearted good humor, and a zest for life (my own interpretation, of course!). “Deep Waters” is amazing. Clocking in at a bit over ten minutes, it tells a vivid story of vastness, dark mystery, perhaps an element of danger, and many other moods and motions of the ocean. A jazzy section could be light dancing on the water or lively sea life or maybe just the movement of the ocean current. The last couple of minutes become much more peaceful and calming - beautiful! “The Oracle” has a very Middle Eastern flavor that is both dark and intense. Zurmuhle’s incredible technique and mastery of the piano is especially apparent in this piece - what control and expression! “Chimes For Tsuyo (Hibakusha, Nagasaki)” has a mournful and tragic tone that continues to haunt long after the piece is over. “Under the Old Oak Tree” is a blissful daydream set to music. Warm, soothing, and very relaxing, it’s a gentle massage for the mind. The 12 1/2 minute “Dreamesque” is my favorite track. A repeated rhythmic pattern gives the piece a hypnotic pulse while the other hand is fluid and unpredictable - sometimes melodic, sometimes ethereal, sometimes barely a whisper. Breathtaking!
If you are new to Ralph Zurmuhle’s music, Reflections is a great place to start! Sure to be one of my Favorites for 2014, it is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. I give it my highest recommendation. Again, WOW!!!