Sequentia, Hildegard von Bingen – Celestial Hierarchy

Steve Holtje

By Steve Holtje

on 07.09.13 in Reviews

Hildegard von Bingen - Celestial Hierarchy

10 pieces of lovely and passionately intense medieval monophony

With this album, Sequentia becomes the only group that has recorded all of the music of Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), over the course of eight albums starting in 1982. This compilation of antiphons and responsories is certainly not mere leftovers; the 10 pieces of medieval monophony heard here are both lovely and passionately intense. Though this is all chant, Hildegard’s highly personal music is full of bold leaps and is never formulaic. For textural variety, the selections alternate between solo and group singing, and there is occasionally some instrumental accompaniment: Norbert Rodenkirchen contributes flute on two tracks (the flute on one of them was used on Sequentia’s first Hildegard album, so a circle is closed here), and co-founder Benjamin Bagby plays harp on one work. The seven female singers all get at least one solo moment, adding to the range of timbres. They recorded in St. Remigius, a lushly resonant Belgian church, further enhancing the group’s sound. Both historically important and beautiful, this is recommended to both medieval specialists and early-music neophytes interested in something of timeless appeal.