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Hildegard von BINGEN (1098-1179)
Inspiration - Lieder und Visionen
Studium Divinitatis I [1:34]
Spiritus Sanctus [4:48]
O ignis Spiritus [4:13]
O virtus Sapientiae [1:29]
O spectabilis viri [5:12]
O virga ac diadema [5:33]
Aer enim volat [2:43]
Rex noster [4:33]
Cum processit [2:59]
O quam mirabilis [4:02]
O virga mediatrix [2:28]
Tu rubes ut aurora [4:35]
Columba aspexit [5:33]
O tu illustrate [5:32]
Studium Divinitatis II [2:33]
VocaMe/Michael Popp (direction and various instruments)
rec. October 2012, Herz-Jesu-Lirche, Munich
BERLIN CLASSICS 0300425BC [57:47]

Hildegard von Bingen has become a ‘tabula rasa’ on which today’s musicians can project their ideas and interpretations, nudging us ever further into realms of personal adaptation with regard to sound and performance content. This is, I hasten to add, not a complaint. The last thing we want is the rarified world of ancient musical memory being preserved in amber, but compare the 1981 Hyperion/Gothic Voices hit Feather on the Breath of God (see review) with the Decca Sinfonye/Stevie Wishart Hildegard (see review) from 2012 and ask yourself which one is getting old the quickest.
 
This VocaMe frequently falls deeper into the ‘personal adaptation’ camp through the leadership of Michael Popp, who we have come across before as part of the Estampie ensemble (see review), and who has had a long career in early music. He outlines the path towards this recording in the booklet, the results arising from the inspiring nature of the melodies and seeking to create a recording which would be itself “a source of inspiration and creativity.”
 
Beautifully sung and emerging from a halo of sweet resonance, the vocal music is given contrast through the accompaniment of various drones and other medieval sounding instruments. Added harmonies are subtly interpolated, and while for instance the descending lines which appear in the midst of the second half of O ignis Spiritus, the hint of Eastern promise given to O spectabilis viri or the close-harmony outings in Aer enim volat are all part of 21st century re-composition, the whole thing retains its ancient character reasonably well. There is something of a tendency towards ‘new age’-ness in the feel of the arrangements and the way they have been recorded, but this is more in the engaging ECM sense rather than anything vapid and lazy. This isn’t the kind of disc which has masses of highlights, and you can experience it as very pleasant in its entirety. I particularly like the atmospheric instrumental ‘waves’ of O spectabilis viri and the vocal arrangement of Tu rubes ut aurora. 

The texts for each track are given in Latin, German and English in the booklet, and the presentation is a very nicely made gatefold with everything firmly attached and nothing tearing or falling out onto the floor as soon as you open it. For Hi-Fi buffs, the final track, a second version of the Studium Divinitatis, was made using a ‘dummy head’ binaural recording technique which we are advised to hear through headphones. I listen to most things through headphones, and while the voices are spread differently with a greater ‘surround’ effect, the result is nice but not staggeringly different to the rest of the disc. The girls all walk past the ‘Kunstkopf’ and retreat to somewhere else in the church for a further moment of acoustic fun, though including giggles as a finale is never a good idea.
 
Dominy Clements