Hildegard von Bingen: A Feather on the Breath of God

Christopher Page and Emma Kirkby shine light on Hildegard von Bingen

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Hildegard of Bingen

Emma Kirkby (soprano); Gothic Voices/Christopher Page (1981) Hyperion CDA66039

This was the 1981 disc, from Christopher Page’s pioneering Gothic Voices group and the incomparably pure-voiced Emma Kirkby, that launched interest in the medieval visionary and composer Hildegard von Bingen. It remains the Hyperion label’s best-selling recording and helped generate a stream of medieval music recordings in the following decade.

While later groups made a feature of the ecstatic, rhythmically fluid nature of the music, Gothic Voices chose to perform the hymns and sequences with great simplicity, alternating a single voice with unison voices over drones.

Bingen’s spellbinding melodies are clear and meditative, achieving a rare, high beauty whose integrity has proved timeless.

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