I was never a fan of harp music until a few years ago when the editor of World Music Central sent me a sample of Spanish harpist and mezzo-soprano Arianna Savall’s music. Later, I acquired Arianna’s first solo album, Bella Terra, which also refers to her homeland in Catalonia, Spain. Arianna’s music cannot be easily described since it has absorbed elements from Arabic and Eastern music along with elements from European early music, in fact, the musician plays a baroque harp. She sings in Catalan, a Romance language nearly lost during the Franco era and related to France’s Provencal language, according to the DK Guide to Spain (Eyewitness Travel Guides).
Arianna with her choice of poetic text and performance of soprano vocals with harp gives off an angelic aura. Her music so carefully rendered with baroque instruments (lutes, percussion, harps) and mixed with traditional instruments such as Petter Johansen’s hardingfele (Norwegian fiddle) lends itself well to a relaxing and contemplative environment. She also provides her listeners with poetry translated into several languages. And I recommend reading the poetry, in this case, includes the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi (opens the recording), text by Federico Garcia Lorca, Saint John of the Cross, Rumi, and other illustrious wordsmiths.
Similar to Portuguese fado singer Cristina Branco, Arianna has an ear for heart-centered and sensual text, along with perfect pitch. Her vocals have increased in intensity and beauty since her previous recording, and already she possessed one of the finest mezzo-soprano voices singing early music today. She sails from Celtic fare, She Moved Through the Fair, to Persian, Rumi’s The Melody Sweetens to Gregorian-style chants Anima Nostre and Anima Nostre 2 as well as, storytelling in the titular track. While any musician can perform spiritual material note for note and with the right emotions, Arianna embodies her text and even on the instrumental tracks, such as Aurora, listeners get a sense of a woman on a spiritual quest. Why else would she choose text by St. Francis, St. John of the Cross and Rumi?
If you seek music with the dual purpose of healing and pleasurable listening look no further than this Catalan gem. I would recommend this album for hospice care, healing in hospitals, massage and energy healing practices and just to end a day on the right note. Arianna captivates ears and hearts--her music heals through personal reflection and the timbre of harp and vocals.