Pianist and composer Dulce Joya began her classical studies at age six at an arts school in her native Cuba and has spent her life living, studying, performing and teaching music in Colombia, Austria and her current home of Germany. Her debut solo piano collection Reality of Dreams finds her taking what she describes as a “fantastic trip to an individual universe,” a realm of fulfilled expression that captures her belief that there is truly no frontier between fantasy and reality. While Dulce cites Frederic Chopin as her primary influence on the piano, her compositions also draw inspiration from her dreams, theater music, progressive rock, rock ballads and notable contemporary composers such as Vangelis and Enya. As a result, her work is almost impossible to categorize; as she puts it, I prefer to enjoy the freedom to travel from one style to another fluidly that gives me flexibility and management of tempo, rhythm and different harmonies – like a game between tension and relaxation.” The album opens with the showstopper Romantic Power. This virtuosic piece explores the entire range of the keyboard in an elegant and flowing fashion and is followed by the epic Call of the King. Imagine the monarch’s stirring speech as he inspires his subjects to join him on a noble campaign for a just cause, acknowledging the inevitable suffering that will be endured but promising victory in the end. Lights and Shadows is a study in contrasts and made me think of the speech in which Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Sad Moments is a solemn processional; the cinematic Magical Ride is alternately frenzied and calm; sometimes, it’s as if the listener is being pursued by something sinister but then the music becomes quieter, almost mysterious. Many stories come to mind! The Lisztian Pride of Love is tender and emotional and captures the many moods of love. Shadows of My Soul alternates between phrases of swelling luminescence and intense darkness and melancholy. Stormchild shares the joy of childhood memories, alternating between innocence and exuberance; listening to Winter Dreams is like looking out onto a peaceful snow-scape and letting the mind wander. The sentimental Bleeding Heart is followed by the musically complex Fallen Angel, another piece worthy of a narrative. The album comes to a heartfelt close with Goodbye – which, to me, wasn’t so sad as it was determined. Dulce Joya is an amazing musical storyteller, a gifted pianist and a brilliant composer and Reality of Dreams is absolutely stunning. Highly recommended!