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‘Hortus deliciarum – twelfth-century gregorian chants’
Emmanuelle Gal, Anne Guidet, Lucie Jolivet, Nicole Jolliet, Brigitte Le Baron, Brigitte Lesne, Catherine Schroeder, Catherine Sergent, voice
Dir: Brigitte Lesne
Recorded in January 1998 at the Abbaye Royale of Fontevraud, France DDD
NAÏVE/OPUS 111 OP 30390 [67:07]

Enixa est puerpera, hymn (Hymnaire de Pairis) [03:04]
Sol oritur occasus nescius, conductus (Hortus deliciarum) [02:36]

O rubor sanguinis, antiphon [01:31]
Favus distillans Ursula virgo, responsory [03:45]

Hec est mater, Benedicamus-trope (Codex Engelberg) [01:02]
Leto leta concio, canon (Hortus deliciarum/ms Florence) [01:06]
Congaudeat turba fidelium, Benedicamus-trope (Codex Engelberg) [03:00]
Kyrie – Magne Deus, Kyrie-trope (Codex Engelberg) [03:36]
Dilexisti iustitiam, gradual (Graduel de Paris) [02:08]
Veri floris sub figura, conductus (Hortus deliciarum/ms Saint-Gall) [03:33]
Primus parens hominum, hymn (Hortus deliciarum) [02:00]
Offerentur regi virgines, offertory (ms Saint-Gall & Klosterneuburg) [03:31]
Sanctus – Phos, patris karitatis, Sanctus-trope (Codex Engelberg) [03:31]
Agnus Dei – Ave Maria, Agnus Dei-trope (Codex Engelberg) [02:50]
Iube Domine, lesson (Codex Engelberg/Breviary of Cologne)/
Navigantes inde sursum – V. Germaniam visure, responsory (Antiphonaire de Pairis)/
Beata virgo, lesson (Codex Engelberg/Breviary of Cologne)/
Sanctis Rome visitatis – V. Dira sevit vastitas, responsory (Antiphonaire de Pairis) [07:54]

Cum vox sanguinis, hymn [06:32]

Procedentem sponsum de thalamo, Benedicamus-trope (Codex Engelberg) [01:29]
Diapente et diatesseron, exercise on the intervals (Graduel de Pairis) [01:45]
Stephani primi martiris, hymn (Hymnaire de Pairis) [05:24]
Alleluia – In Maria benignitas, alleluia (Graduel de Pairis)/

Alleluia – O virga mediatrix, alleluia [05:19]

Ite iam sine tristicia, Ite missa est-trope (Codex Engelberg) [01:03]

When the 'early music movement' came into existence, the music of the Middle Ages attracted much attention from performers and audiences alike. It isn't that long ago that ensembles came onto the stage with a large battery of instruments to reveal the colourful and in many ways mysterious world of medieval music. But since then a lot has changed. Ensembles are performing a greater variety of repertoire than about 20 years ago, and the style of playing and singing has changed considerably as well. One wonders, though, whether the audiences of today have a better understanding of the medieval world than some decades ago. How many people still think the ‘Middle Ages’ was a rather dark period, in which the Crusades cost many people’s lives, women were suppressed and the Church forbade scientists to think independently?

One writer aptly described the respective attitudes of the consecutive cultural eras towards the Middle Ages: "The Renaissance invented the Middle Ages in order to define itself; the Enlightenment perpetuated them in order to admire itself; and the Romantics revived them in order to escape from themselves. In their widest ramifications 'The Middle Ages' thus constitute one of the most prevalent cultural myths of the modern world." (B. Stock)

In fact, what we call ‘Middle Ages’ was a period of many changes and differences. Whereas the 10th century was full of fear and instability because of the invasion of barbarians, the 11th and 12th centuries were a period of great development. It was the time of the foundation of universities. The Crusades, as much damage as they caused, also brought the western world into contact with the scientific and cultural achievements of the East. And in music a system of musical notation was developed, which allowed music to be handed down from one musician to another in written form rather than just orally.

This recording shows the great variety in the repertoire of sacred music as sung in monasteries and abbeys. One hears both monodic and polyphonic pieces, and one discovers the freedom with which liturgical texts were treated, as is demonstrated in the ‘trope’, embellishments of liturgical chants in words and music. And composers also used texts with a very personal character, as Marie-Noël Colette writes in the booklet: "Music was used as a vehicle for expressing ... the fruits of theological reflection, philosophical speculation, meditation on the divine mysteries and their earthy or symbolic representation".

The compositions of Hildegard of Bingen are a good example of such use of music. In particular in the 1990’s these were very often performed and recorded. It wasn’t only her music which fascinated many people, but also the fact that she occupied herself with theology, philosophy and music in a world dominated by men.

But she wasn’t the only woman to do so. The other figure on this disc is Herrad of Hohenburg (often referred to as Herrad of Landsberg), who was abbess of a monastery at the hill of St Odilie. The title of this disc refers to the encyclopedia she put together, which contained an overview of the scientific knowledge of her time, and also includes a number of musical compositions, although she seems not to have composed any music herself. Hildegard and Herrad are the centre around which the programme on this disc has been chosen. In addition to pieces by Hildegard and from Herrad’s ‘Hortus deliciarum’ Discantus is performing pieces from their time, which they could have known.

The performance of this music by Discantus is as good as one could wish for. All voices are ideally suited for this kind of music. Surprisingly it is the ensemble’s director, Brigitte Lesne, who uses some vibrato in her solo contributions. The other singers do without it, fortunately. It makes the often lively rhythms and the sometimes unusual harmonies come through very clearly. The quite exalted character of some pieces is dealt with in a rather poised way, and rightly so. Both in regard to repertoire and performance this disc can be wholeheartedly recommended.

Johan van Veen

[The Hortus Deliciarum is a large compilation of texts from Biblical, traditional and theological sources to treat the history of the world from creation to its final consummation at the end of time. This compilation made by Herrad, abbess of Hohenbourg in Alsace between 1176-1196, also includes numerous illustrations of high quality that explain the text and entertain the reader. more information]

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