Piano-Heaven Award Winner:

Our Mother

Ralph Zurmühle

2007

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Piano-Heaven showcases relaxing and melodic piano music, and the music contained within this CD epitomises everything that this web-site is about. Our Mother is Ralph Zurmühle's third album (the previous two being Communion and Between) and this CD is almost entirely solo-piano.

Ralph Zurmühle was born in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1959. He had private lessons from the age of five, and studied classical music and jazz until he was twenty. He moved to Catalonia in Spain in 1999, where he currently lives.

"Being There" is the opening track of the CD, and it is a beauty. A lengthy piece at over eight minutes, the track has a slow, delicate opening and reminds me somewhat of a flower unfurling. Gradually, the piece develops and becomes quite uplifting. As with all of Ralph's compositions, the piece is easy to listen to, and I am in no doubt of the importance that this musician attaches to melody.

 

The album's second track is more upbeat, with a faster tempo. This is perhaps explained by the title of the piece- "The Wind at My Back". There is a definite sense of freedom in this piece and an element of fun as well. It makes for an enjoyable listening experience.

 

"Hymn" is as majestic as the title would suggest. Indeed, when I first listened to this piece, I thought the opening bars sounded like a hymn without having seen the track titles. This is a very beautiful composition, much slower initially that the previous track. At around three minutes, the piece becomes quite dark and foreboding, before the original opening returns to add an air of calmness to proceedings once more.

 

The next two tracks offer versions of one piece of music- "Our Mother". The first combines piano with synthesisers, and the second is solo piano. Interestingly, the first version is almost twice as long as its solo-piano partner. As much as I enjoyed the piano / synthesiser version, for me there is no substitute for the solo-piano offering. Certainly, track four is very sedate, and the synthesisers are used very well to give the piece a truly soporific feel. There's an ethereal touch as well, reminding me a little of Constance Demby. The piece develops beautifully, and comes round full circle to end with the gentlest of touches.

 

The solo-piano version of "Our Mother" is truly a delight. Here is a composer who is not afraid to use silence in his music. The melody is incredibly simple, but a joyful listening experience all the same. I imagine, judging by the album's seducing front-cover, that this piece is referring not just to the prayer from the "Essene Gospel of Peace", but also to the gentle beauty of Mother Nature. Oh for all days to be like this day.

 

The album's stand-out track for me is "Horizon", track six on this CD. Minimalist in form, this piece is achingly beautiful from start to finish. I am reminded of Arvo Pärt's "Spiegel im Spiegel" from his highly successful album "Alina". Rather like that music, "Horizon" is a lengthy piece, clocking in at a shade over twenty minutes- twenty minutes of pure heavenly bliss. I have listened to this track dozens of times, and never tire of its natural beauty. There are enough subtle variations and one or two surprises (such as an unexpected flurry of notes around the eleven minute mark) to stop this piece from becoming anything other than essential listening. Piano-Heaven was made for pieces like this. Put simply, this is one of the most gorgeous compositions I have ever heard, and its beauty lies in its simplicity. I also like the fact that this piece tells a story, and this story-teller is in no rush. This one track is worth the price of the CD alone. The fact that the album's other eight tracks are of such high quality is merely a very nice bonus.

 

Track seven, "David and Me" is another perfect illustration for budding pianists as to how silence in a piece can be incredibly powerful. The track is extremely gentle and graceful, and although the dynamics increase later on, the track maintains its heavenly beauty throughout. It's another fairly lengthy track, at twelve minutes.

 

The album's penultimate track is entitled "The Return". I would love to know the story behind this track. The music is optimistic and quite invigorating. Again, the composer's ear for melody is evident to the listener. The piece is rather more upbeat than most of the album, but still manages to be incredibly relaxing.

 

Our Mother closes with a delightful composition simply entitled "A Melody". Needless to say, it lives up to its name!

 

I am extremely impressed by this album. The recording quality is top-notch, and those high notes are crystal clear. I give it my highest recommendation, and suggest the reader also investigates the composer's other two albums- in particular the solo piano CD Between (2000) which is utterly gorgeous. Ralph Zurmühle has produced a remarkably consistent album in which every track is an outright winner. Piano-Heaven is indebted to artists like this. Take a bow, Mr. Zurmühle. You deserve it.

S.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RALPH ZURMÜHLE: Our Mother

Our Mother

Ralph Zurmühle

 

 

Ralph Zurmühle

 

 

 

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