Collection: Voices of Ancient Wisdom

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COMPOSERS: Hildegard Of Bingen
LABELS: Mosaic
WORKS: Music by Hildegard of Bingen
PERFORMER: Serendipity
CATALOGUE NO: MMCD 001

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This is the first disc to arrive showing distinct signs of PMT (pre-millennial tension). It contains ‘medieval music for today’, and ends with a speech which tells us there is much to be done before ‘everything’s kushty’, but ‘the Millennium Dome will be a success’. Luckily, it also has a fine collection of music by Hildegard, and some startling adaptations of lute pieces by Dalza and Spinacino, ravishingly played on the harp by Patrizia Meier.

The best of the singing is done by Sara Stowe, particularly in O virga ac diadema (where she easily surpasses the attempt currently available on the Naxos label), and in the stratospheric O ecclesia (where she puts the recent version from Harmonia Mundi in the shade). The most ambitious piece on the disc is The Song of the Sibyl, a text which first turns up in Augustine’s City of God and is sung here to a tenth-century melody.

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Much is done with bells and drones to give it an air of prophecy, but the result is rather directionless and cannot match the version (in Catalan) on the Opus 111 label: this particular fortune-teller, one suspects, had to give up her job owing to unforeseen circumstances. Anthony Pryer