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  39:6 (07-08 /2016)
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Music & Arts

Code-barres / Barcode : 0017685129124


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Reviewer: J. F. Weber


Titled O Eterne Deus after one of the songs, this disc honors St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179), who was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church—a teacher of the faith and one of the few women to attain that distinction—in 2012. The observance of her feast, long limited to the Benedictine order and four German dioceses bordering the Rhine, was also extended to the universal Church that year. The 77 chants that were collected in two manuscripts during or shortly after her lifetime have won great popularity on records since her eighth centenary in 1979. While her symphoniae have been included in innumerable recorded collections, there have also been a large number of CDs devoted entirely to her music. There are two approaches: either accompanied or unaccompanied singing. Here seven women sing, lightly accompanied by Shira Kammen, who is familiar from many years of recordings with Ensemble P.A.N. and other American early music ensembles. In my view this is an agreeable alternative to the big bands of instruments that add too much to the simple lines of the original manuscripts.

In addition to two instrumental tracks arranged by Shira Kammen that go unmentioned in the notes, there are 12 well-known symphoniae, half of them chosen from the most familiar pieces. The oratorical rhythm of the singing shows a familiar grasp of the texts. The title song is a vocal solo with drone, but the group sings most of the others with Kammen accompanying. One knowledgeable touch occurs in the responsory Rex noster promptus est. The repeat after Gloria Patri in responsories is not written out in the manuscripts and is often omitted, but not here. Lovely voices soar but no­thing is exaggerated. Karen R. Clark has sung with numerous American early music ensembles (including Ensemble P.A.N.), but she has assembled a superb new ensemble. I hope to hear more of their fine work.

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