Oxford Camerata - Hildegard Von Bingen: Heavenly Revelations

Thursday 1st February 1996
Oxford Camerata - Hildegard Von Bingen: Heavenly Revelations

STYLE: Choral
RATING 4 4 4 4
LABEL: Naxos 8550998
RRP: £5.99

Reviewed by John Irvine

Hildegard Von Bingen was a 12th century Nun, poet, composer, diplomat, visionary and scientist whose muse and writings describing powerful visions of heaven are undergoing something of a revival at present. Despite this, recordings of her music are still few and far between, with the obvious point of comparison for any new recording being the ground-breaking "A Feather On The Breath Of God" (see CR24). The approach taken on this recording is a little unusual when compared with other performances of Hildegard's work. The normal approach is to assume that the unison singing - everyone singing the same notes with no harmony or counterpoint, like singing a hymn without accompaniment or anyone harmonising - is backed by the drone of medieval string or woodwind instruments playing a single note, an approach favoured by some modern composers to symbolise eternity. There is none of that here: there is no accompaniment at all to the voices. Also it is generally assumed that the music should be performed without a set metre allowing the music to flow out in an ecstatic cascade rather than jig along to a steady beat. Oxford Camerata have taken the latter approach, generally adopting a 3/4 metre. The upshot of this is that instead of presenting Hildegard's music as the outpouring of a soul lost in contemplation of God, her songs as by-products of her visions, we are left with music which is rather dry and unexciting. Having said that, this is still an interesting introduction to Hildegard's music and at £5 per CD this Naxos release may prove very attractive indeed: the recording may even whet your appetite for more, however, I found the subdued approach of this disc to be very disappointing and unrepresentative of the spirit of Hildegard Von Bingen's music as understood by historians and musicians today.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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