Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), abbess and visionary, is one of the key figures in early music so while it should be good to know that this album, originally released in 1997, is again available and this time at a budget price, we do have some reservations. The Ensemble Für Frühe Musik Augsburg is a quartet of early music specialists: Hans Ganser (voice, psaltery), Rainer Herpichböhm (voice, gothic harp), Heinz Schwamm (voice, fiddle) and the undoubted star, Sabine Lutzenberger (voice, recorder, gothic harp). I can hear purists sharpening their poison pens as I write this. Did Hildegard use instruments in worship? It was certainly against the rules of the time but then much of Hildegard's life was lived in defiance of convention and this reviewer is happy to listen to this interpretation, although he would not wish to go on the record to defend its authenticity and we point out that there are plenty of other recordings available for comparison. The content on this disc is a mixed bag featuring mainly Antiphons and Psalms. Some are sung by Lutzenberger alone, some with male voice accompaniment, some with instrumental accompaniment, some with voice drone, and with a few done as instrumentals. Yes, it is a varied programme but it needs to settle on a theme. Whenever Miss Lutzenberger is featured it comes alive but the instrumentals and Plainchant leave us wanting less even though at just 53 minutes this is not a full disc by any means. Also on the negative side is the fact that there is no English translation of the Latin texts. Admittedly this is on a German label and it is easy enough to track down the Psalms in English but it gives us another reason not to recommend this particular recording above the many others out there.
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