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Hirundo Maris / Arianna Savall, Petter Udland Johansen

Release Date: 07/17/2012 
Label:  Ecm   Catalog #: 001697802  
Composer:  Traditional
Performer:  Arianna SavallPetter Johansen
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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CD:  $21.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HIRUNDO MARIS Arianna Savall, Petter Udland Johansen ECM NEW SERIES 2227 (79:54 Text and Translation)

The title means “sea swallow,” a bird that flies from Catalonia to Norway, linking the two singer/players and their respective countries. The links include the music of both countries, heard here from an ensemble led by Savall and Johansen with three supporting members. My previous acquaintance with Arianna Savall began with some programs that she recorded with her parents, Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras (she dedicates this Read more disc to the memory of her mother), but her training and performing have extended far beyond what she learned from the family business. She has not appeared with them since 2008, focusing instead on this ensemble.

The program is a cross between early music and folk music, or a little of both. Virtually all of this music comes from traditional Catalan, Sephardic, and Norwegian sources. Savall previously recorded The Mariner’s Song on her Bella Terra disc, reissued on Invocation à la Nuit . Indeed, that song about a future king of England, no mariner he, abducting a Catalan girl is cited as the origin of this project. Five voices joined to varied strings and percussion make a haunting program of music unfold effortlessly. Seldom does unfamiliar music appeal so directly. Savall conveys the same evocative sense of a story that her mother did so memorably. This is a disc to enjoy over and over.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber

Having raved about Rolf Lislevand’s Nuove Musiche release on ECM and seeing Arianna Savall’s name at the top of this programme of Chants de Sud et du Nord, I leapt at the chance to hear it. The songs here are described as “the exciting world of hidden treasures contained in the many traditional songs of Norway, Catalonia and the Judaeo-Spanish/Sephardic/Ladino ballads… a journey linking the Mediterranean with the North Sea.”

Hirundo Maris is Latin for “sea swallow”. Arianna Savall and co-leader Petter Udland Johansen’s quintet, defined as part early music ensemble and part folk group, flies between these ancient waterways, adding one or two of their own songs as they go.

As you might expect, the overall impression is of gentler, more overtly lyrical repertoire when compared to Lislevand’s more instrumental, lute-based recording. These ECM discs are certainly complimentary, and you can expect one or other to pop up as related material in your search engines, including Lislevand’s Diminuito. Arianna Savall’s clear vocal tones are a defining element in Hirundo Maris, but Petter Udland Johansen’s vocal contributions are equally heartwarming, and they frequently join to create a marvellously complimentary duo. The arrangements have all been made with a subtle touch, blending the brightness of harp and mandolin tones with the harmonic underpinning of double bass and guitar, and as much illustrative as rhythmic percussion timbres.

A central song in this programme is the Catalonian El mariner, in which the sea is evoked and the story told of love between a Mediterranean girl and a knight from the North. It is certainly not an easy task to pick out highlights from such a richly varied and beautifully performed selection, but of the original work Arianna Savall’s own Le chant des étoiles is a disarmingly simple and gorgeously expressive instrumental number, and Johansen’s Penselstrøk is another charmer, if perhaps a little on the sentimental side with its descending harmonies.

The feel of a link to a long lost and distant past is very strong indeed with many of these songs. Traditional narratives such as the tragic tale of Bendik og Årolilja are timeless and deeply moving, as are lullabies such as El noi de la mare and the lovelorn Scot who sings The Water is Wide - beautifully done, but alas, dere’s no escaping de Norwegian accent. There are more modern associations with the jazzy bass which crops up in more lively numbers such as Ormen lange, and there are no doubt elements in this recording to make the purists go off in a sniffy huff. I couldn’t care less. As the booklet notes mention, the oral tradition with which many of these songs have been passed down “is growing ever more fragile, to the point that we are in danger of losing this precious transmission”, so such a means of preserving and widening awareness of these songs can only be a good thing. When it comes to creating the arrangements, “from a very personal angle, we have started with a monodic line and we have created and imagined a new sound space that faithfully reflects what we are aiming to transmit and convey.” This personal angle is genuinely felt and entirely absorbing, and ticks all of the buds in my own tastebox.

Alongside ECM’s usual richly resonant recording this release is also provided with complete song texts with English translations. There is a remarkable amount of variety in the sounds to be found here, from the harps and mandolin already mentioned, there are also the drones and lamenting lines which emanate from Johansen’s Hardanger fiddle, and something of a surprise in an instrument called the Dobro, a variant on the guitar with an added resonator more often heard in bluegrass music. Filled with poignancy and scintillation, this is a magical recording which casts its spell both wide and deep.

-- Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

El mestre by Traditional
Performer:  Arianna Savall (Voice/Harp), Petter Johansen (Voice/Mandolin)
Written: Spain 
Yo m'enamorí d'une aire by Traditional
Performer:  Arianna Savall (Voice/Harp), Petter Johansen (Voice/Mandolin)
Period: Medieval 
Written: Spain 
The water is wide by Traditional
Performer:  Arianna Savall (Voice/Harp), Petter Johansen (Voice/Mandolin)
Tarantella by Traditional
Performer:  Arianna Savall (Voice/Harp), Petter Johansen (Voice/Mandolin)
Written: Italy 
Morena me llaman by Traditional
Performer:  Arianna Savall (Voice/Harp), Petter Johansen (Voice/Mandolin)
Period: Medieval 
Written: Spain 
Joseph and Mary by Traditional
Performer:  Arianna Savall (Voice/Harp), Petter Johansen (Voice/Mandolin)
Written: England 
El noy de la mare by Traditional
Performer:  Arianna Savall (Voice/Harp), Petter Johansen (Voice/Mandolin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Spain 
El mariner by Traditional
Performer:  Arianna Savall (Voice/Harp), Petter Johansen (Voice/Mandolin)
Period: Romantic 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Enchanting October 4, 2015 By Elizabeth R. (Boone, IA) See All My Reviews "Hauntingly beautiful vocals, gorgeous arrangements of folk instruments. Love it!!" Report Abuse
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