Before speaking about the album Hugs & Kisses, I have to tell you about my meeting with Ralf Kleemann. The first time I saw him, it was a very long time ago... I'm talking about, oh, wow... at least twenty years go. It was in Edinburgh. I had heard about Jochen Vogel and discussed with Stefan Battige (the German harpers' clique) and the name of Ralf Kleemann had sounded in my ears. He came towards me, straight as the letter i, with his very clear blue eyes, wide open, as if hallucinated. He clasped his hands and bowed. I think he did not say a word, I think I laughed and he too. I have seen him other times in other parts of Europe, still speaking little, and always we laughed. He makes jokes, pulls faces and plays completely improbable and hilarious tricks. Until then I had never heard him play and didn’t know quite what to expect.
And then one day, in Switzerland, I attended a concert of his. He came on stage, stiff as an i, easy and elegant, with his very clear blue eyes, wide open, as if hallucinated. He played, and I entered a World... I cannot say to what extent I was touched by so much refinement, delicacy and depth. Pure harp, just that.
When I had Hugs & Kisses in my hands, I first loved the jacket: Ralf, white shirt, black pants, crossing an airport, harp in hand. The decor is blurred as if he was walking very fast. Straight as an i, hallucinated, Ralf. A cover of limpidity, elegance and originality that I had not seen on any harp record!
Listening to it I found what had touched me at the concert and first of all the wonderful sound of Ralf's harp. One has to know that this harp (which I think is the best in the world) was made by Ralf himself in the workshop of Frank Sievert. It is made of oak, with a Gothic shape, its gut strings give it a clear, crystalline, rich, open and very balanced sound... (it is my dream, but it is not for sale!). The father of this marvel is not only a composer, musician, maker of a single harp, but also a sound engineer. And the sound of this album is exceptional. You have to have it if only for that: to hear, to taste this perfect sound!
I'm listening to it right now. My favorite song is "Sarabande". So German, in the spirit of Kurt Weill. Ralf plays his tunes with a subtle musicality, he leaves room for silence, resonance, he makes each of his notes, adds them to each other with care, finesse, choice. Like jewellery.
Five years ago, in Dinan, I met Clotilde Trouillaud. I order her a coffee. We start talking about this album. Perhaps she would like to add some words to this post? So, I wouldn’t say anything about our conversation or the shared enthusiasm that fired us on the terrace of this cafe. She will certainly tell you about the recording of her album with Ralf. About the precision and relaxation of the man, the result... but maybe it's up to me to talk about it: Lune Bleue is a must have in all good CD collections, next to Hugs & Kisses!
Since then I have also recorded my last record Maryann's Garden with Ralf, in the heart of the northern European plain, in the church of Lemgow. It was a little cool in April, but Ralf had planned fleeces, heaters and thermos of tea for me.
(Thanks to Kathy Henault for proofreading this post)