Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
Hearing this lovely recital is like coming across a mountain stream on a hot summer's day and enjoying sitting besides its clear, cool water and, like many a stream, it is deeper than it first appears. The music is a calming sequence of chants adapted by the German polymath Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century. While we can hear their origin in Gregorian Chant, the way in which Hildegard plays with the themes is akin to what a great jazz singer might do with, say, a traditional hymn tune. Of course, it is not jazz or gospel that we are hearing: it is early medieval chant sung in Latin and listeners who find the tranquillity of chant an aid to relaxation will get a great deal of pleasure from this recording. Grace Davidson is a British soprano with an impressive CV who specialises in the performance and recording of Baroque music and while Hildegard may not be her usual repertoire, she rises to the distinctive challenges of singing Latin chant with consummate grace (sorry). The album is entirely a cappella and the audio quality, courtesy of producer Nigel Short, is outstanding. The depths to which I alluded earlier come from the lengthy lyrics, most of which tell some sort of story, either of a saint or the Virgin Mary. The texts are provided along with an astute translation by Professor Christopher Page which greatly increased my appreciation of the music. True, you can sit back and listen but if you take the trouble to read the words at the same time, a light shines back in time to a remarkable woman who sought to praise her God to the best of her undoubted abilities. However, if you have no interest in Latin poetry but enjoy quality singing Grace Davidson will not disappoint.
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