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(45:52 / Quixote Music)
TRACK LIST: 1. Last Drink 3:33 2. Presentation of Time 2:45 3. Wedding Day 3:34 4. From Sunrise To Sunset 6:24 5. Waiting for Spring 3:39 6. My Own Way 3:44 7. Angel 3:25 8. 101 5:01 9. The Old Tree 2:26 10. Thin Ice 3:05 11. Things to Come 4:21 12. Mirror of My Soul 3:53 SOLO PILOT: Michael Schumpelt - piano
Prolusion. The name of German musician and composer Michael SCHUMPELT isn't new to me, since I am well familiar with the work of his progressive group, Tea For Two, with whom he produced three studio recordings, "Dream of Reality" (1994), "101" (2000) and "Twisted" (2006). The album under review is Michael's first solo effort.
Analysis. My personal attitude towards ambient and similar works with a single performer playing only one instrument hasn't undergone any significant changes since my first acquaintance with such creations back in the early '90s and still leaves much to be regarded as positive. To cut a long story short, Schumpelt's "Mirror of My Soul" is one of a few winsome exceptions to that rule, the music being both inspired and diverse enough to justify the album's quite pretentious title. There is not a shade of monotony or sketchiness nor even true ambient patterns themselves on this CD, the twelve instrumentals present all being beautiful, really well thought-out compositions, performed with passion and competence alike, though the virtuosity is certainly not something this musician is lacking either. Even the three slow-tempo tunes, Last Drink, Waiting For Spring and The Old Tree, aren't instantly accessible - despite their obvious stylistic kinship with the romantic branch of traditional symphonic New Age. Nonetheless, it is the remaining tracks that leave a much better impression. The classically-inspired pieces, Presentation of Time, Wedding Day, My Own Way, Angel, Thin Ice and the title track, vary in theme, pace and mood all alike too frequently to place them firmly within the category of the said style. I believe it is not accidental that it is the longest three tracks, From Sunrise To Sunset, 101 and Things to Come, that turn out to be the true standouts of the album, each being already something much weightier than any kind of composition within the new-age idiom. To be more precise, each sounds like an acoustic piano reading of some classic sympho-prog opus magnum, though one of these is just such indeed - the (originally keyboards-laden) title track of Tea For Two's second disc, 101. Throughout his adventurous melodic excursions, Michael skillfully navigates his way through the demanding chord, theme and other changes of these cuts, never losing focus of the inner beauty of each. From Sunrise To Sunset is however the absolute winner to my taste, notable for its really lush harmonies. The music is constantly changing, embracing a whole gamut of emotions, with cascades of blistering passages, Michael's flexible piano at times almost directly recalling the one Tony Banks plays on the classic Genesis recordings.
Conclusion. Michael Schumpelt's "Mirror of My Soul" is in many ways a remarkable album of rather extraordinary piano music and should be essential listening for anybody having respect for any kind of good symphonic music, as well as those art-rock fans who are able not only to recognize their beloved music in the absence of a rock component, but also to accept it in such a form.
VM: April 8, 2007
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