I was surprised to read that a few reviewers complain about the lack of variety in the Abbess Hildegrad's music. Have they been listening to the same recording I have had in my possession for over twenty years? On my Hyperion recording there's a wide variety and no two pieces are the same and there are eight singers in all: four sopranos, one contralto and three tenors. Male and female voices do not join together on any of the tracks. Emma Kirkby joins in with the other three sopranos on tracks 1 and 4 and does not sing solo on any track. The tenors sing together on tracks 3 and 6. Margaret Philpot, contralto, sings solo on tracks 2 and 7 The sopranos, Emily van Evera, Poppy Holden and Judith Stell sing together on the last track (8) without Emma Kirkby joining them.
So you see, there's plenty of variety and, for instance, Margaret Philpot singing solo is a good bit different from the four sopranos singing together. Margaret Philpot's deep, rich voice is a joy in itself. I'm also a fan of Emma Kirkby and have recordings of her singing solo. However, she was never a permanent member of Gothic Voices, jopining in with them just sometimes. Hildegarde composed her music around 900 years ago. When Picasso first set eyes on 12000 year old cave paintings he is reputed to have exclaimed: 'We've learnt nothing!' This observation also applies to Hildegard's music, which is as fresh, varied and meaningful today as it was on the day she composed it. Variety in music isn't necessarily about a lot of noise with all kinds of ups and downs and round abouts. Because Hildegard's music is so pure we're able to hear and appreciate its every nuance in a way which is not always possible in more sophisticated music. Just as beauty is often in the eye of the beholder, musical variation is often in the ear of the listener.