Hildegard Of Bingen/Birgitta Of Sweden

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COMPOSERS: Hildegard Of Bingen/Birgitta Of Sweden
LABELS: Raumklang
WORKS: Vocal works
PERFORMER: Les Flamboyants
CATALOGUE NO: RK 9802 (distr. Codaex)
Les Flamboyants sounds like the sort of name that a particularly extrovert French Baroque group might give themselves. In fact they are a Swedish ensemble of three female singers and a fiddle and recorder player (with one singer occasionally doubling on percussion), a Scandinavian version of Anonymous 4 but with a few bells and whistles. This beautifully produced disc includes seven works from the Symphoniae armonie celestium revelationum by the 12th-century abbess Hildegard of Bingen and half a dozen from Cantus sororum by the lesser-known 14th-century visionary and founder of a religious order Birgitta of Sweden, canonised in 1391. The difference between the two women’s styles is marked. Hildegard is the more melismatic, with flourishes that seem to emanate from her own transportation to something like an ecstatic spiritual state. Birgitta is more sober, more inward and pensive. Les Flamboyants present each work inventively, sometimes adding nothing, but sometimes a subtle instrumental line here, a quiet drone there, some simple vocal polyphony elsewhere. A few antiphons have psalm intonations added. Not everything is strictly authentic, the group admits – Birgitta apparently forbade instrumental participation – but the results make beguiling listening for the modern, even the agnostic ear. The acoustic is generously resonant. Stephen Pettitt