Bella Terra (Aliavox, 2003)
A few months ago, I received a short promotional CD of
Spanish vocalist-harpist Arianna Savall’s solo debut,
Bella Terra. I fell in love with Savall’s harp with
its piano-like tones and the soprano’s soaring vocals.
I kept telling myself that I would contact her record
company to request the full-length CD. Many months
passed in which I enjoyed listening to the four songs
that appeared on the promo CD and only recently did I
succumb to my desires to hear more of this artist’s
repertoire. Although, Bella Terra debuts Arianna as a solo artist
and composer, this gifted instrumentalist and vocalist
has appeared on several historical music recordings.
She has explored Sephardic music, baroque and medieval
music from various European countries. She has
performed with various music groups throughout Europe
and North America and even with all her years of
musical schooling which began at age 10, Arianna comes
across as a person that values simplicity, universal
love, nature, poetry and her friendships with diverse
musicians. When she refers to getting together with
friends and playing music (liner notes), she’s not
referring to a jam session. More than likely, these
musical friends are musicians connected to her
illustrious musical family or musicians she met at the
various conservatories in which this 32-year old
musician spent her formative years.
Born in Basel, Switzerland in 1972, into the heart of
a family of Catalan musicians (as noted on her web
site biography), began studying classical harp at the
age of ten. After her family, including her father,
renowned viola player Jordi Savall and her mother,
soprano Montserrat Figueras returned to Barcelona,
Arianna studied under Magdalena Barrera and began her
vocal training at the Conservatory of Terrassa, under
the tutelage of Maria Dolores Aldea. She also studied
historical music in Toulouse, France and returned to
Switzerland in 1996 to further her vocal studies.
Her focus has been on baroque and medieval music.
Bella Terra, she performs her own arrangements set to
Catalan, Spanish and Arabic poems. The musical
arrangement is both sparse (few instruments appear on
the recording) and lush with ud, saz, double bass,
percussion and harp creating a gentle weave that
frames Arianna’s emotive vocals. Here the vocalist
explores themes of passionate love, the spiritual
concept of living in the moment, and the timeless
beauty that this planet offers to each of us.
Although Arianna focuses on the musical portion of the
recording while bringing in the words of renowned
poets, she possesses the poetic sensitivities of a
Pablo Neruda or Federico García Lorca.
On her quest for freedom and rhythm as well as, the
enjoyment of the simple things in life, Arianna has
loaned her extraordinary musical talents to a gorgeous
set of songs from the gentle pulsing waves of El
Mariner (the Sailor) to the oriental Apreciemos el
instante (Let Us Savor The Moment) to the captivating,
L’Amor (Love) and Aquest camì tan fi (This Slender
Slip of a Path). Julio Andrade’s bowed double bass
enhances the stunning, Song to be Sung in My Night.
Let Us Savor The Moment features Arabic percussion and
Dimitris Psonis’ stunning ud solos.
While I’m certain that academics versed in historical
music of Europe relish this lovely recording, Bella
Terra possesses a universal quality in which any music
lover can relate. Despite all her years of music
instruction, Arianna is not a trained musical puppet.
She brings joy, passion and her own spirituality to
this recording. Her vocal phrasing, emotional
coloring and execution could be called flawless (at
least by a novice such as myself). And why would
vocals ever need to be better than what you hear on
this recording? Arianna marries grace, childlike innocence and simplicity while
performing complex music. She makes it all seem effortless; leaving her
listeners breathless from the sheer beauty of these 12 songs, divinely inspired
by life itself.