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Hildegard von Bingen: A Feather on the Breath of God
Parental Advisory ed.
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Ave generosa - O Jerusalem - Columba aspexit - O ignis spiritus - O Eucharisti - O viridissima virga - O presul vere civitatis - O Ecclesia / Emma Kirkby, soprano - Gothic Voices, dir. Christopher Page
This is the record that started the Hildegard craze back in 1982--and you need only listen to Emma Kirkby glide and soar through Columba aspexit (the opening hymn) to understand why. Gothic Voices performs the music very simply, either alternating soloists and unison choir over a drone or using a single unaccompanied voice. The singers render Hildegard's extravagant poetic imagery and melody not with the rhythmically fluid, ecstatic approach favored by Sequentia, but with equalist rhythm and a calm, meditative quality. Gothic Voices' straightforward approach is less likely to send you into a rapturous trance than is Sequentia's, but in the hands of such fine singers as Kirkby, Margaret Philpot, and Emily van Evera, Hildegard's extraordinary texts and melodies are captivating--and clear enough to linger in the memory as melodies rather than just sensations. This record is still Hyperion's bestselling title by far--try it and find out why. --Matthew Westphal