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GRAMOPHONE (November / 2017)
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Reviewer: David Fallows

One of the special pleasures at this year’s Antwerp Early Music Festival was hearing what may have been the Western European debut of the Tiburtina Ensemble from Prague. Founded 10 years ago by Barbora Kabátková, the group is entirely of women with a particular interest in monophonic music, particularly from Bohemia (though they also perform new music). As is quickly clear from the present CD, they are all trained singers, and most of them also have a substantial career as oratorio soloists. So their ensemble sound is rich, with the occasional touch of vibrato.  

Their Hildegard collection, mostly of lesser-known pieces of Hildegard (but with three anonymous polyphonic conductus and ending with a psalm), puts the focus on two aspects of the ensemble: the marvellously controlled unison of the 10 singers, flexible and at the same time energetic; and the nicely differentiated vocal colours of the individual soloists. In addition they have two medieval harps (played by Kabátková and the other leading figure in the group, Hana BlaΩíková) as well as a dulce melos played by the Austrian virtuoso Margit Übellacker. Kabátková’s booklet note describes these as ‘let us say, Old Testament plucked string instruments’; but it would be fairer to say that they are well documented from Hildegard’s day and are beautifully deployed, essentially with triadic figures above a drone (on the final) and with the dulce melos lightly decorating the vocal lines.  

That is all to say that the music of Hildegard is presented responsibly but with a newly minted colour to the discreet instrumental accompaniments. It is an eminently worthwhile addition to the Hildegard discography.

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