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Hildegard of BINGEN (1098–1179)
Hodie aperuit [2.08]
Christoph HAAS (b. 1953)
Hildegard Of Bingen
Laetitia [4.26]; Tristitia [5.41]
Hildegard of BINGEN
O virga ac diadema [9.43]; O gloriosissimi [7.26]
Perdito [4.15]
Hildegard of BINGEN
O viridissima virga [4.55]
Odor balsami
Hildegard of BINGEN
Ave, generosa [6.58]
Stephanie Haas (voice); Chrisoph Haas (tambura, frame drums, aeolian harp, percussion)
rec. April 2001, St. Antonius Stuttgart
ANIMATO ACD6061 [59.08]


Experience Classicsonline

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.

Robert Hugill


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