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Album Review: Reverence
Ralph Zurmühle
Cover image of the album Reverence by Ralph Zurmühle
Ralph Zurmühle
2024 / Ralph Zurmuhle
52 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Reverence is the seventh solo piano album from Ralph Zurmühle, one of my all-time favorite pianist/composers! The twelve tracks on the album are "dedicated to different aspects of life that inspire awe and raise our souls above these turbulent times" (quoting Ralph). The liner notes for the album include a quote by Native American, Black Elk, that underlines Ralph's intentions with this music: "Peace will come to the hearts of men when they realize their oneness with the universe. It is everywhere." As was true of Ralph's previous albums, much of the music on Reverence is on the quieter, more contemplative side and is incredibly expressive as well as deeply emotional. I can't imagine anyone really listening to this music without being powerfully moved.

Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Ralph Zurmühle discovered his natural ability for the piano at the age of five and was trained in jazz and classical piano in Zurich and Liechtenstein. He graduated from the University of Zurich with a Master of Law degree and passed the bar exam two years later. He worked as an attorney for the next ten years and also started composing music for film and theater productions during that time. In 1999, Ralph resigned from his law practice, packed up all of his belongings and moved to Spain, where he still resides. While there, he dedicated himself entirely to the piano and released his first album, Between, in 2000. He has received many awards for his recordings and film scores and recently released a live studio album on vinyl.

Reverence begins with "Earth From a Distance," a piece inspired by a photo of Earth rising over the lunar horizon as Apollo 8 completed the first manned mission behind the far side of the Moon in 1968. A very simple and reverent melody floats throughout the piece with a quiet repeated chord progression behind it, expressing feelings of awe and wonder - gorgeous! "Opening In the Sky" is darker and more mysterious. It begins simply, and as it evolves, a variety of themes are introduced - some very open and some more dramatic and complex, telling an amazing story throughout. Relaxed and soothing at the beginning, "Ode To the Sun" seems to go from the sweet warmth of the sun on a spring afternoon to a blazing summer or desert heat. "Those Moments" is deeply reflective and introspective - a favorite! At nearly nine minutes, "At Sea" tells a compelling story that begins with an almost mournful melody and a feeling of tragedy or great loss. This part of the piece is so spare, but expresses so much. The second theme is also very dark and ominous with a rolling broken-chord rhythm and cross-overs into the deep bass of the piano. The piece is livelier and more adventurous in this section, but is still very sad. The first theme returns to end this amazing piece - my favorite on the album. "Children's Song" couldn't be more different from "At Sea" with its lively, playful energy and sense of fun! It's a really nice contrast and demonstrates just how nimble Ralph's playing can be. "Scarborough Fair" has been one of my favorite songs since Simon and Garfunkel recorded it in 1966, but the song actually dates back to medieval times. Ralph's solo piano arrangement is heartfelt! The last track on the album is the title track which is something of a theme and variations as well as a beautiful expression of wonder, awe and gratitude. What a fantastic album!

Reverence is available to order from Ralph Zurmühle's website, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites including Spotify. The sheet music can also be downloaded from Ralph's website. It's still early in 2024, but this will definitely be one of my favorite albums of the year! Don't miss it!
February 19, 2024
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