Hildegard Of Bingen: Celestial Harmonies: Responsories and Antiphons

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COMPOSERS: Hildegard Of Bingen
ALBUM TITLE: Hildegard of Bingen
WORKS: Celestial Harmonies: Responsories and Antiphons
PERFORMER: Oxford Camerata/Jeremy Summerly
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557983


Hildegard, born 910 years ago, is one of the most fascinating figures in the history of Western culture: a pioneer scientist in something approaching the modern sense, she was also an influential theologian and a diplomat who commanded the respectful attention of the Pope and Frederick Barbarossa, but our main interest here is that she is the first composer we can confidently identify by name. Her compositional style, rooted firmly in plainchant, would soon be superseded by the Notre Dame School led by Leonin, yet it strikes a responsive chord with today’s audiences through its directness. Some experts suggest that her visions, and thus her poetry and music, were the result of episodes of severe migraine, and there are commentators who consider her music primitive, even clumsy. That’s not a view I subscribe to: technically simple though they may be, her melodies are imaginative and sensual. Of course, one should not overlook the contributions of those responsible for realising the music from the original manuscripts, which, it must be admitted, cannot accurately tell us how Hildegard expected the music to be performed: for modern tastes these recordings rate highly for clarity, elegance and tonal beauty. Barry Witherden