Abbess Hildegard of Bingen - A feather on the breath of God

Classics Revisited
Abbess Hildegard of Bingen - A feather on the breath of God
Emma Kirkby (soprano)
Gothic Voices, Christopher Page
Hyperion CDA66039

Alexandra Coghlan & Edward Breen

[ EB] It’s a joy to revisit this disc and since it is a staple on my listening lists when I teach music history I take regular pleasure in introducing it to others too. Funnily enough, it’s true importance only struck me years after I first heard it: thanks to my choirboy’s training I first met early music in the late 80s, and so my listening began with many albums that featured Emma Kirkby. As a boy treble at the time, her singing felt very natural and joyful to me, I had no idea a whole new realm of early music performance was newly flowering and that her artistry was at the helm until decades later when I explored recordings from the 60s and 70s that I got a sense of just how fresh her voice must have sounded in 1981. For me, this disc is a particular favourite, and other discs of music by Hildegard (of which there are many fine examples) just can’t touch it. And therein lies my opening gambit: is it possible to unpick my fondness and admiration for Hildegard and her music from my fondness and admiration for Emma Kirkby’s artistry? To me both are intertwined in a glorious knot.

For the full text of this feature please see Gramophone magazine (October 2023)


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