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Hildegard von Bingen: The Origin of Fire Import

4.9 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, February 8, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

The bad news is that this is Anonymous 4's final recording. The good news is that it's one of their best. Aside from a pair of brief 9th-century chants that flank the main program, the disc focuses on the music of Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th-century Benedictine nun whose liturgical works broke new ground in their visionary texts, rich imagery, and melodic range. The selections here relate to themes associated with the Holy Spirit--the fire of creation, wisdom, the life-giving spirit, and love. The imagery of Hildegard's visionary texts is replete with references to the basic elements--air, earth, fire, and water. The results are boldly original, at least within the restricted confines of chant, which offer compelling listening experiences as performed in the lustrous tones of Anonymous 4. The program includes a pair of Hildegard's most-rhapsodic extended visionary pieces, the consoling "O spirit of fire, bringer of comfort," and "I am the great and fiery power," whose soaring opening musical lines still can shock. Harmonia Mundi, as usual, captures the purity of Anonymous 4's singing in vivid sonics and provides deluxe production values, including a profusely illustrated booklet, with full texts and translations. --Dan Davis

Interview with Marsha Genensky of Anonymous 4
Anonymous 4's Marsha Genensky speaks about the ensemble's swan song in our special interview.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 8, 2005)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: HARMONIA MUNDI
  • ASIN: B0006OBW8E
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,207 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Fabiano Seixas Fernandes on May 19, 2008
Format: Audio CD
At first, to be quite honest, this record did little for me: singing did not sound as enticing as in 11,000 Virgins, and there's very little music of Hildegard in it. Only 6 out of the 17 tracks have been set to music by her; opening and close hymns are not hers (neither text nor music), and Hildegard's visions (which make up most of the program) were set to music by A4, who borrowed recitation tones from different sources.
However, with A4, music is not the only factor to be taken into account. ORIGIN OF FIRE is primarily not a presentation of Hildegard's music, but of a specific aspect of her visions--this is why near half of the program is chanting: chanting is not all-the-way musical; it is first and foremost a form of recitation, i.e. of bringing a text to one's attention. The listener who really wants to enjoy this record needs to focus on liner notes and text as well. By the way, this record's liner notes are, as is always the case with A4, clear and comprehensive.
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Format: Audio CD
Let's start out with some limitations:
1. If you're looking for an excellent translation and commentary on these works of St. Hildegard, you ought not buy this album (the booklet is generally unhelpful, and the translations are absurd).
2. If you are looking for a huge collection of St. Hildegard's music, you ought to think about buying the 11,000 Virgins album before this one.

BUT,
Anonymous 4 is definitely my favorite interpreter of the Hildegard texts. They take very little liberty with the musical notation for Hildegard's music, almost interpreting it with Solesmes-like conservativism. This lets the melody speak for itself. Moreover, they don't fool around with musical instruments that would have been forbidden from the monasteries of her time.
In this CD, Anonymous does some original and amazing work, interpreting not only the music of St. Hildegard, but also trying to bring the texts from her visionary works to life. If you can read and hear Latin, this is going to be a real treat--just don't bother with the translations in the book! They do original settings of Invitatory reciting tones and lection tones (the ones used in the Divine Office) to sing the texts, such as they might be sung if they were included in the Office of Matins. This gives the CD a quasi-liturgical style which, of course, matches with the lifestyle that St. Hildegard would have lived.

St Hildegard, pray for me!
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I gave this CD an above average rating. I did so because this is the 3rd CD that I have purchased from Anonymous 4 and to be quite honest they all sound the same to me. I personally feel that the style of Hildegard is heavy, crisp, intentional and complicated. It is unique compared to other styles of anicent choral music. Anonymous 4 has a very light, airy almost contemporary feel to whatever they sing. In the CD insert Anonymous 4 goes on to express how they prepared to sing the medeival music in latin with a German accent because that is where Hildegard was from, and that this is how she would have sung her music. But honestly I don't think one can tell. Like I said, this is my third CD from them and they all sound the same. Don't get me wrong ladies. You 4 have gorgeous voices but I have found that the albums by Sequentia that sing in Hildegard's von Bingen tradition to be more authentic. I recommend to those interested to try Chanticles of Extasy by Sequentia or any of Sequentia's albums. You'll understand what I mean after you compare them for yourselves.
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Hildegard von Bingen is, in this listeners estimation, a very important composer in the Western canon. Some will say that this is simply because she put her name to work when so many contemporaries simply signed their work "anonymous." Others will say it simply because she is one of the few women composers of merit that we have discovered, and therefore we exaggerate her importance out of some misplaced political correctness. I reject both these charges sometimes levied against her. I think her work is lasting for more reasons than this. Most scholars admit her importance, include her work in the canon, and she is taught in most University history of music classes.

First, it is important to remember that Hildegard was (and is) thoroughly Catholic. Her legacy sometimes gets usurped by those with other agendas. Hildegard was sent to the convent to get her education and to become a nun, given by her parents as a tithe.

As a young child she was sickly and had religious visions and episodes. The old Catholic encyclopedia refers to her as a "seeress and prophetess" and both descriptions seem apt. It is perhaps because of her visions that her parents gave her as a tithe.

Hildegard it would seem took to the cloister like a fish to water. She was blessed with a great intellect. She was also long lived. In her time she wrote books on herbalism, painted sacred art, composed beautiful music, and wrote down her mystic visions. Some scholars have made the argument she was a polymath. She corresponded with Popes and even acted as a diplomat. She was a learned and holy woman who had power and influence in the Church, a matriarch who was venerated as a saint even shortly after her death.
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