*Editors note: I was asked to write something for the new Olivia Belli album and the following text was included in the press release information pack for the album. Please excuse me for publishing it in full.*
It is a natural occurrence once people get older for their thoughts to expand and take on more of a considered interest in what could be classified as “The Big Questions”. The reflection of where they have come from, where they are going and the various environments around them, all come into play. It makes sense that these sort of concerns become a central focus of a person’s thoughts as they take upon information and combine it with their own concerns, feelings and experiences and these combinations are those which inform and guide a person through the next stage of their lives. The major environmental concern that the world faces is one of a bigger picture. Once people have children they become acutely aware of just what they impact is on their environment and what sort of a world that they will be leaving for their children and other generations to follow.
These are the sorts of concepts that have been inspiring Italian pianist Olivia Belli and her husband Enrico. After experiences living in Metropolitan areas the couple made the move to the Marche countryside where they can better care for their environment and experience a more present and less invasive form of living. Belli’s “Mater” follows on from her album “River Path” which was influenced the river than runs along the valley close to her home and shows that the natural environment is one which inspires Belli immensely. The Mater connection and the area where Belli lives is intertwined. Other than the environment, the album is influenced by the composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, a composer from the same region and his work “Stabat Mater” (1736). The piece, which composed just prior to his death of Tuberculosis and 26 years of age, is one which is defined as a sacred work which evokes the suffering of Mary at Jesus’ crucifixion and indeed has a rough translation of “Beautiful Mother”. With Belli’s environmental inspiration, you could easily draw the comparison from Mary to Mother Earth and the suffering being all the turmoil, pollution, fires, climate change that exists now. The music of Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater” is largely based on strings and solo voices while Belli takes this influence and channels it through her piano playing.
The eight pieces on the album are as follows:
1 ADITUS: entrance door; a lament arises from Mother Earth – cemented, suffocated, abused.
2 MATER LACRIMANS: Mother Earth suffers and tears.
3 FUMES: a poisonous air spreads; cities, factories, fires … nothing is spared.
4 EX VOTE: men of goodwill ask for a Grace; above all they ask to be heard.
5 MATER DOLENS: Mother Earth is alone, abandoned, deserted.
6 COUNTDOWN: an alarm cry; maybe we can still reverse, but time is running out.
7 EXITIO: exit door. The way out is love for our Mother Earth, which is expressed in
8 DE ANIMA: a tribute to the life and beauty of Mother Earth; beauty that we should adore and preserve, like a modern divinity.
What Belli is able to create on the album is some of her finest work. There is a sense in the pieces that a lot of deep though and consideration has been engaged in so as the music fits in with it’s themes with the most impact that it can. Belli is not just a pianist as evidenced by her lunar inspired album “Four Moons” (2019) which showed her talents as a composer of soundscapes as well as piano. This is evident by the strings and ambience that open the first two pieces before Belli’s piano announces itself on “Fumes” with a plaintive feel that shows a tenderness, a concern and a hint of hope, like it is not too late for change to occur. With “Ex Voto” the mix of piano and strings represent different feelings. The piano evokes a melancholic feeling which is juxtaposed with the inspiring and soaring strings which take flight in the second half of the piece. This particular track becomes a turning point in both the mood and feeling of the album which is evident on such pieces as the operatic grandeur of “Countdown” (the profits from this track will be directed to the charity Friday for the Future), the contemplative soundscape of “Exitio” (which evokes her “Four Moons” release) and the flat out exultant “De Anima” which shows Belli in full magnificent flight. “De Anima” is worth the price of admission alone and nicely brings the collection to a close with it’s joy, positivity and expression of passion.
Released by Fabrizio Paterlini’s Memory Recordings label, “Mater” is a landmark release in Olivia Bell’s career and destined to be on many best of lists at the end of the year. In essence it’s a personal tribute to the world that we live in, but it also acts as a way of inspiring people to be good to one another and think about what exists within and around them. The single “Countdown” will be available from April 24 and can currently be heard at the bandcamp link below.