This disc consists of rather a strange marriage. Husband and wife
team, soprano Stephanie Haas and percussionist Christoph Haas
collaborate on a re-presentation of the music of Hildegard of
Bingen. Haas's singing is performed relatively straight, but is
surrounded by Christoph Haas's contemporary percussion track.
Christopher Haas plays a selection of instruments listed rather
vaguely as Tambura, Frame Drums, Aeolian Harp and Percussion.
In the early days
of performing medieval music, ensembles added a lively accompaniment.
More recently the tendency has been to perform music of this
period in rather more austere arrangements. Many of the most
striking versions of Hildegard of Bingen’s music have included
simply drones or no accompaniment at all. Here Christoph Haas
adds quite discreet accompaniments which often leave the music
virtually unaccompanied and are more like punctuations. Between
Hildegard's music Haas plays interludes of his own - these are
generally more elaborate. I am unclear whether Christoph Haas
has multi-tracked the percussion or whether what we hear reflects
his own virtuoso abilities - I would presume the latter.
In the notes, Haas's
music is described in terms of elaborate subdivisions of rhythmic
cycles. But this is not immediately apparent on listening.
He has a fine ear for timbre and has created some seductive
and fascinating aural soundscapes which dialogue effectively
with Hildegard's music.
Stephanie Haas seems
to have worked mainly in 20th and 21st
century music. Her participation in the first performance of
Sophie Gubaidulina's “From the Visions of Hildegard of Bingen”
was her first contact with Hildegard's music. Her voice is ideal
for this repertoire, possessing a focus and clarity with an
attractive edge to it. Without using much vibrato, Stephanie
Haas brings immense personality to this music.
The CD booklet includes
full texts and translations, plus background information on
Hildegard of Bingen, but no specific information about the individual
compositions by Hildegard.
Critics are divided
about how Hildegard's music was performed. Her last secretary
evidently recorded that her music was performed with instrumental
accompaniment, though church rules of the time forbade this.
Stephanie and Christoph
Haas have collaborated on a range of discs of music by Hildegard,
and others. Full details are available from this website.
Quite whether Hildegard
would have envisaged an accompaniment quite like this, I don't
know. If the idea of her music in dialogue with contemporary percussion
appeals to you, do try this disc.