Hildegard Of Bingen: The Origin of Fire: hymns & sequences

Album title:
Hildegard of Bingen
Hildegard Of Bingen
The Origin of Fire: hymns & sequences
Anonymous 4
Harmonia Mundi
Catalogue Number:
HMU 907327
BBC Music Magazine
Walton: Belshazzar's Feast; Symphony No. 1
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It is seven years since the female vocalists of Anonymous 4 last explored the music of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). On that occasion they reconstructed a service of her music in honour of St Ursula (reviewed November 1997), but now they have gone for a freer meditation on spiritual fire, drawing upon readings from Hildegard’s letters and treatises, together with Pentecost chants and other plainsongs. All the usual hallmarks of Anonymous 4’s musical approach are here to delight their fans – the soothing ooziness of the phrasing (in ‘O eterne’), the discreet addition of drones (‘O felix anima’), the tiniest unruffled moments of ornamentation (‘O quam mirabilis’) and the spacious, ‘churchy’ acoustic. There is also something new: a presentation of extracts from Hildegard’s visionary prose writings (on Creation, Wisdom, Spirit and Love) which are intoned to simple chants usually reserved for the greetings at services and bible readings. These retain the overall atmosphere, but destroy any sense of ecstasy or awe in these words. Much of the music on this disc is also available in more meaningful performances by Sequentia (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi). Try those if you want a truer access to the past – not just ‘atmosphere’ – from your medieval music. Anthony Pryer