Piano-Heaven Award Winner:


Tim Neumark

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The vast majority of music found at Piano-Heaven is produced by pianists with years of experience and many CDs under their belt. For a young man to achieve this recognition with his debut CD is both rare and exciting, and tells you that the composer in question must have an exceptional talent. Let me introduce you to the man in question.

Tim Neumark was brought up in Maryland, USA, and became an established sportsman excelling in numerous activities. During his teenage years, he developed a love for piano which has continued into his adulthood. With a job in the computer industry, the composer found himself travelling considerably and he took every opportunity to both play different pianos and compose new music.

The opening bars in "Dawn"- the CD's first track- are minimalist in form. A gentler, more graceful opening you would be hard-pressed to hear. Clearly, the land is still very much asleep in the introduction, but before too long a rolling melody kicks in (Michael Gettel style), suggesting the Earth is coming to life. A delightful tune ensues. This is happy, optimistic music- the day ahead is clearly one to eagerly anticipate. The composer's extensive linear notes expand further. The first four tracks he entitles "Summertime Suite", and were born from a sleepless night which resulted in him seeking sanctuary at the piano in the middle of the night. Whilst improvising, the first glimmer of light peeked through the distant trees, and it was this heavenly experience that stimulated Tim into composing a suite capturing a Summer's day.

Lunch-time is often a hectic and frantic time of the day. Nothing could be further from the truth with the CD's second track, entitled "Midday". Clearly, this is one relaxing place away from the hustle and bustle of city life. With a slow tempo, this track is perfect for chilling out and unwinding after the stresses of the day. The piece reminds me of a typical Kevin Kern composition. It is very melodic and a delightful listening experience. I always read any notes from the composer after I have made my own interpretation of the music, and it is interesting to note that it is the birds relaxing after a busy morning's work that inspired this composition.

"Dance" is as playful and fun as the title would suggest. There's plenty of energy in the playing here, and the tempo is markedly different from the previous composition. However, despite the added vivaciousness of the piece, the track is nonetheless still both relaxing and highly appealing. I am reminded a little of the style of the Russian maestro Kostia- a composer Tim cites as being influential to him, and one of my own personal favourite pianists. The track's history is interesting. Composed many years prior to the rest of the album after watching two birds playing in flight, it was only when the rest of the Summertime Suite was taking shape, that Tim realised its place and its intended title.

One of my favourite cuts in a CD packed with highlights is track 4, "Twilight". This special time of day, close to many people's hearts, is beautifully represented here by the American pianist. A simple, but highly-effective melody is gradually revealed to the listener. This is a splendid composition.

"Adam's Lullaby" is a twinkling, gently playful little piece inspired by Tim's pastor's son. Let us hope the composition had the desired effect in sending him to sleep.

When I first listened to the next track, I immediately thought it had a hymn-like quality, so I wasn't at all surprised to find it was entitled, "Meditation: Quiet Time in a Church". This composition could easily be accompanied by words. I would be interested to find out if Tim had lyrics in mind. Clearly, this is a reflective piece. It is very soothing and perfectly titled, born out of a particularly creative time in his church long after the rest of the congregation had left. As Tim himself says, "All the lights were off except the light above the piano, and music poured out of me. I have no idea what I played that night, but this piece was inspired by that moment."

Track seven, "City of Courage" was born out of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The first part of the composition was an improvisation recorded as the day unfolded. The middle section- exceptionally beautiful- is taken from Toni Childs' "Heaven's Gate" with Tim imagining thousands of souls rising to heaven. One cannot help but listen to the music with a heavy heart when knowing the background to the piece. The track closes quite ominously, suggesting uncertain and quite possibly dangerous times ahead for the nation (and indeed the world).

"The Dream of You" is an upbeat piece, full of optimism and teeming with life. Once again, I am reminded of the style of the great Kostia, and can't help but feel that the mutually admired composer would be nodding his head in approval of the music resonating from Tim Neumark's piano. Again, reading the notes provided by Tim, I'm not far off the mark- "This is a song about hope." He goes on to say, "When I wrote it, I was hoping for someone to share my dreams, aspirations and life. It wasn't until several years later that I met my wife Monica, and now I dedicate this song to her."

I was intrigued by the CD's ninth track, "Red Rain", the title arousing my curiosity as I assumed it must be more significant than simple alliteration. The piece features a very appealing melody, and is a little on the dark side in parts, and full of optimism in others. Let's just say I was way off with my thinking of the origins of the piece. Tim explains that waiting at traffic-lights was a symbolic reflection of his life at that time- he felt he had no direction in life and he had ground to a halt. As the rain poured onto the motionless car's windscreen, the "stop" light turned the rain red, and the title was born. Apparently, it wasn't for several years that a melody was found to capture this experience. I love this track, and it remains one of my favourites on the entire CD.

Equally intriguing to me was the track "Beginnings". There was nothing unusual about the piece- a lovely, memorable melody is the norm for this remarkably consistent album. Rather, it was the title that got me thinking and its positioning towards the end of the album. Tim explains how he had the opposite problem to the previous composition. On this occasion, he had the tune but no name, and it was only whilst recording "Biography" that he thought it would be appropriate to include his first piece. This doesn't answer its seemingly illogical positioning within the album, but that is of little importance to any music lover. It was whilst listening to this piece for the twelfth or so time that I came to realise that Tim Neumark is truly a blessed man, for he has the gift to create beautiful melodies time after time. There is not a single weak track on the entire CD, and that is quite something, especially for a composer making his debut album (Tim has since released his second album, "Christmas").

The album's penultimate track, "Diamond Music" positively sparkles. What energy! This is a fun piece, full of life and vitality. At times it is quite frantic. The tempo quickens to a frenzy, and I imagine people rushing busily- indeed, madly, from place to place. Tim writes in his notes about how this is an original arrangement of the first movement of Karl Jenkins' "Palladio". He originally arranged this for a friend's wedding and then used it as a prelude for his own nuptials. "This is the last piece I ever played as an unmarried man," states Tim. I wonder if he was running a little late on the day?

This remarkable CD closes with a track entitled "Prayer". The listener is returned to a gentler piece of music, both relaxing and delightful. Tim himself captures it perfectly when he says, "A prayer in its truest form is humble, simple and sincere. This song expresses those sentiments in music."

"Biography" is a fantastic CD. Exceedingly beautiful, it maintains an impeccably high standard throughout- quite an achievement for a CD with a dozen tracks. If Tim Neumark can write such stunning music with his debut album, the music world should sit up and take notice as this particular composer is clearly capable of achieving great things. The Grammy-panel: take note! "Biography" is outstanding, and receives my highest recommendation.








TIM NEUMARK: Biography - Solo Piano


Tim Neumark





Tim Neumark







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