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Origin of Fire: Music and Visions of Hildegard von Bingen
     

The Origin of Fire: Music and Visions of Hildegard von Bingen

by Anonymous 4
 
Who could have predicted that one of the great recent success stories in classical music would be a 12th-century German abbess? Her fascinating life story is surely one factor in the Hildegard von Bingen revival -- she became quite a celebrity in her own day, thanks to her mystical visions and spiritual wisdom -- but her music also stands on its own as a rare and

Overview

Who could have predicted that one of the great recent success stories in classical music would be a 12th-century German abbess? Her fascinating life story is surely one factor in the Hildegard von Bingen revival -- she became quite a celebrity in her own day, thanks to her mystical visions and spiritual wisdom -- but her music also stands on its own as a rare and beautiful monument of medieval culture. No less important, modern ensembles like Anonymous 4 have proven its power to speak directly to today's audiences. This vocal quartet had a great success with their first Hildegard album, 11,000 Virgins, and have returned to her work for what may be their final recording. (After 18 years together, the much-acclaimed group announced a hiatus in 2004.) The Origin of Fire delivers more of the classic Anonymous 4 sound: perfectly blended voices, soaring in deceptively simple arcs of ecstatic melody. From Hildegard's works, they have mostly selected hymns and other chants in praise of the Holy Spirit, a topic that provoked the author to recurrent visions of fire, a force both of life and destruction. Longer compositions such as "O ignis spiritus paracliti" and "O ignee spiritus" effectively show Hildegard's genius at sustaining an absorbing current of music with nothing more than unaccompanied unison voices, and Anonymous 4 perform it all with a seemingly effortless grace. The ensemble also includes excerpts from Hildegard's visionary prose texts -- set not to her music but to other chant melodies of the era. This provides some variety (as the unison voices sometimes break into polyphony), but it also enhances our understanding of the inspiration behind Hildegard's music. Whether or not this is Anonymous 4's final album, it maintains the same note of high artistic integrity that has distinguished their work for nearly two decades.

Editorial Reviews

Gramophone - Mary Berry
Anonymous 4, with their smooth and restrained unison singing, are in many ways ideal interpreters [of Hildegard's music]; their careful avoidance of over-emphasizing the composer's outpourings marks this performance.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/08/2005
Label:
Harmonia Mundi Fr.
UPC:
0093046732721
catalogNumber:
907327
Rank:
3853

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