Hildegard Von Bingen: O Jerusalem

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COMPOSERS: Hildegard Von Bingen
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: O Jerusalem
PERFORMER: Sequentia
CATALOGUE NO: 05472 77353 2
Next year will be the 900th anniversary of the birth of Hildegard. Of the many recordings of her works the series by Sequentia is clearly the best, and here they select pieces appropriate for the opening of her church in 1152. The disc begins with the glorious O Jerusalem, grand and ecstatic, with the bells of Bamberg Cathedral ringing in the background. But the musical high point is the brilliantly flexible and subtle performance of O tu illustrata, where each phrase is allowed to quicken and grow into the next. This formal fluidity is missing from the Marcel Pérès disc, but he does offer other insights: he constructs a real church service out of these pieces (‘Lauds for the Feast of St Ursula’), he attempts an interpretation of the poorly understood ornamentation signs in chant and he gets the female chorus to sing in a low, chest register. The result, in pieces like De patria and Studium divinitatis, is performances of resonating intensity – though rather stolid. Anthony Pryer