Record of the day: Hildegard von Bingen, "O Nobilissima..."

Record of the day: Hildegard von Bingen, “O Nobilissima…”

Hildegard von Bingen
O Nobilissima Viriditas (Cd Champeaux CSM 0006)

A fundamental figure of medieval German culture, Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) as well as being an eminent scientist, naturalist, poet and philosopher, correspondent of Bernard of Clairvaux and Pope Eugene III, was also one of the greatest composers of all i tempi, author of the wonderful collection “Symphonia harmoniae revelationum caelestium”, composed between 1151 and 1158 for the sisters of the monasteries of Disibondenberg and Rupertsberg (of which she was abbess) and which contains pieces naturally closely linked to the flow of community life and its rituals.

Hildegard would certainly have been amazed to know that in a distant future these compositions, often simple melodies for one voice, would have had a very successful existence independently of liturgical use, would have been performed in concert halls all over the world and would have given rise to a huge discography.

It is a shocking listening experience, capable of leaving indelible traces in the soul of those who experience it; it's music
bare, devoid of any spectacular frill, nourished by Gregorian chant but also endowed with a superior capacity for lyrical expansiveness capable of enclosing extraordinary levels of musical expressiveness in very few notes suspended in the air.

Just as Hildegard's naturalistic and cosmological writings are animated by an unshakable firmness of faith in the perfection of a Creation born by the will of a superior entity, so her Music possesses the same certainty of expression, never scratched by doubt and immersed in atmospheres of ecstatic contemplation of the existing.

Those who wish to interpret it find themselves faced with considerable performance difficulties precisely because of the nakedness of the writing; each syllable is rich in meaning and expressive power, the plasticity of the vocal line is of miraculous purity and requires superior skills to be expressed correctly.

The French soprano Catherine Schroeder demonstrates in this CD that she is perfectly up to such an arduous task, carrying the weight of the entire album, punctuated just by sparse instrumental interventions by viella, bells and flute.
Recorded in the vast Church of Saint Martin de Champeaux, equipped with excellent acoustics, the album leaves you breathless with its beauty and performance perfection.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.