LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Chant and Polyphony from Medieval England
PERFORMER: Anonymous 4
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907125 DDD
Not all medieval musicians were men. Hildegard of Bingen was especially gifted and richly deserves this moving tribute from Naxos – a label which seems to be attempting a comprehensive coverage of music history.
The slightly timid delivery and the male voices on some of the tracks are probably not what Hildegard had in mind, but the fetching plainness of ‘O virga’ and the deep sonority of ‘O presul vere’ remind us that there may be another kind of authenticity. It is a pity that, with almost eighty works by Hildegard from which to choose, half of the eleven pieces here have been recorded before.
This is a good, budget introduction, but less memorable and resourceful than Sequentia’s performances on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. For some truly persuasive female advocates of medieval music you should hear the splendid latest offering from Anonymous 4. This is a beautifully arranged meditation on the Virgin Mary as she laments over her dead son and intercedes for the world.
There is such variety of singing here – the bell-like echoes of ‘O mors’, the twangy Middle English vowels of ‘Stond wel, moder’, the rhythmically crisp ‘Ave Maria salus’ and the oily purity of ‘Ave Maria gracia plena’. Not just a collection of works but an enthralling concert.