Memories of the Heart
Juan Manuel Ruiz
2023 / Juan Manuel Ruiz
Review by Kathy Parsons
Memories of the Heart is the second of two solo piano albums that Spanish pianist/composer Juan Manuel Ruiz released independently in December 2023 (I also reviewed the first one, The Return). The two albums express different ways we perceive memories of people and events in our lives. The Return was recorded on a felted piano and is on the darker, more melancholy side. Memories of the Heart was recorded on a more vibrant and colorful unfelted piano and presents happier memories as well as feelings of nostalgia. Juan Manuel Ruiz released two albums before these two - his more orchestrated 2018 debut, Will, and his 2020 solo piano album, Cutouts, which I also reviewed.
Memories of the Heart begins with "The Trace of the Time," a moderately-paced piece with a purposefully flowing left hand and a simple, bittersweet melody. The middle section, which is played in the upper octaves of the piano keyboard, is especially poignant - an intriguing start! "Looks" picks up the tempo and seems to express memories that make the heart race a bit along with bringing a smile. The title track has a beautiful rolling broken-chord left hand behind the dreamy, wistful melody - very peaceful and relaxed. "Remoteness" seems to express a sense of urgency in the first half, briefly becoming calmer in the middle, and then returning to a more anxious feeling. "Friends" is a heartfelt tribute to those special people in our lives who accept us as we are and are there for us no matter what. From quiet and meditative to very joyful and upbeat, it's a favorite! "Nostalgia" looks back to times in the past that are especially touching. A sense of deep longing is present at the beginning of the piece and returns near the end while the middle/main section is somewhat livelier yet bittersweet and heartfelt. "The Path" could refer to many things from a literal walking path to the more abstract path created by the choices made in life. The piece with that title expresses moving ahead with confidence and grace. "Remembrance" is a loving tribute to someone or a memory that was especially dear and meaningful. Many emotions are expressed within the music - another favorite. I'm not sure what "Iqbal" means or refers to, but the piece with that title is heartfelt and is obviously very meaningful to the composer. "Days of Yesterday" gently reflects on the past and the paths that led to the present time. Sometimes wistful and dreamy and sometimes more dramatic - just like life! - it's a beautiful closing piece.
Memories of the Heart is quite different from The Return and the two albums make a very nice complementary set. Even the artwork is vastly different. The Return, which is darker and moodier, has a picture of a dark piano with snake-like tree roots growing in and out of it, standing in a desolate forest. Memories of the Heart has a picture of a white piano with rainbows and balloons flowing all around it - quite the opposite of The Return! If you get both albums, you'll have no trouble remembering which is which! Both are available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming platforms including Spotify. There are also four pieces of free sheet music available to download from Juan Manuel Ruiz's website!
January 22, 2024