ALBUM TITLE: Bingen
WORKS: Ego Sum Homo: plainsongs, hymns and other liturgical works
PERFORMER: Tiburtina Ensemble/ Barbora Kabatkova
CATALOGUE NO: RIC 383
Hildegard (1098-1179) was a medieval mystic and composer whose musical works are preserved in manuscripts at Dendermonde and Wiesbaden. In the late 1990s (celebrating the 900th anniversary of her birth) there was a rush of fine recordings of her works by Gothic Voices, Sequentia, Anonymous 4 and other groups, but since then there has been something of a lull. Now the nun of the Rhine is truly back on song with this accomplished and atmospheric offering by the Prague group, the Tiburtina Ensemble.
Most of her music is in plainsong style, but that does not mean it is unoriginal or prosaic. O tu illustrate(in praise of the Virgin Mary), for example, is extraordinarily rhapsodic, inventive and wide ranging, and it draws deftness and suavity from the singers. By contrast, in the hymn O caritas(based on the story of the entry of St Ursula into heaven) the narrative and dialogue elements are rather lost in the efficient but uniform approach, though the improvised interjections on the harp pander to our modern craving from colour and atmosphere. Most of these compositions are designed for church services, but that is not the aim here and they are not sung in their full liturgical forms. Instead we get a sound experience which is both clear and ethereal, not unlike earlier recordings of Hildegard by the all-female group Anonymous 4.