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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 29 August 2003
This record is one of the best early music cds available, or perhaps it IS the very best, despite being over 20 years old. The musicianship, singing and recording are all wonderful, and the sound is so good, your living room will be transformed into a Gothic chapel.
Unfortunately, this disc should come with a musical financial health warning, as newcomers to early music will probably find themselves shelling out for more and more of Emma Kirkby and Gothic Voices' recordings. And that's just the beginning: you'll develop a need for ever more obscure ensembles and composers for the rest of their lives. However, before you remortgage the house to buy similar music on full-price labels like ECM and so on, try the Jeremy Summerly discs on Naxos. They are marvellous and a fraction (not seven-eighths) of the price.
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VINE VOICEon 28 February 2001
I was surprised to read some of the on-line reviews. I have owned this recording since it first came out on vinyl, when it recieved excellent reviews world wide. It has sold in shed loads ever since. Why? Two main reasons; one, it is stunningly sung by the Blessed Emma Kirkby (Whom God preserve) and others, and is an excellent introduction to early sung music forms and religious music in particular. Two, many people bought it because it is perfect for the purpose of chilling out after a bad day or simply relaxing. If you do not like it, you have my sympathy, and I suggest you do some serious thinking about your personal development. Also, stop listening to Classic FM as it is clearly bad for you.
11 comment| 60 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
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.
22 comments| 27 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Abbess Hildegard of Bingen created the pieces featured on this recording of sequences and hymns in honour of the Holy spirit, the Virgin Mary and Saints. These pieces are refreshing,
The recording has four soproano and contralto giving a impressive performance that creates an atmosphere that takes us to the imagined world of Hildegard and the Cloister surroundings of her world.
We are transported back to the middle ages and to a time around the 1140s.
Hildegard was very creative. Especially after a vision she had when she was about 43 years old. And went on to create two books on natural history and medicine and a morality play. This recording draws from a wealth of music she composed throughout the rest of her life.
The pieces illustrate the passion she had for her devotional life. They are poetic and spirtual. The pieces offer a truly meditive and calm feeling.
There are some notable items that are unacompanied. And the whole recording is delightful.
The Gothic Voices here include Emma Kirkby, Andrew Parrott and other performers.
The recording was made in 1981 and the digital sound is fantastic. The Gothic voices give us a first class and rich recording here that will always be remembered by those interested in music of the middle ages.
It is a wonderful release and should not be missed.
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on 26 November 2013
Bought because I had an old tape done while a student, and I wanted an up to date replacement - if you love the music of the Middle Ages, this is the stuff. Emma Kirkby and Gothic Voices, still the best rendition of Hildegard to my mind, although I preferred the old LP to the rather more clinical CD timbre.
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on 26 January 2009
I have owned this cd for almost 20 years & it still rewards listening.

Emma Kirkby's voice is magnificent & if you are seeking an introduction to early vocal works then this is as good as any; there is no guarantee that you will enjoy it as we all have varying tastes however it is a fine example of its genre.

I particularly enjoy playing this in the car when driving in the country in winter or through some awesome scenery; it helps put me in touch with the miracle that is creation.
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on 10 October 2000
This is wonderful music, but it is not in the Germanic tradition of leading voices and suchlike: it must be given time. Furthermore, such is the vocal beauty and purity of timbre I do feel that one must wallow slightly in it. After all it was written for edification and to focus the mind on the Almighty. For those who do not like very "samey" music, allow yourself an hour or two just to listen to it, and even, dare I say, nod off to it, just so it percolates into the system. Simply wonderful music, though, and good for Hyperion for recording it. Highly recommended.
11 comment| 18 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
There is little perhaps for me to add to the praise heaped on this disc since its first release 30 years ago now. It could be criticised for lack of authenticity against what performance in Hildegard's abbey would have been like - use of male voices on some pieces, accompaniment by symphony (hurdy-gurdy) or reed drones on others, the vocal ornamentation used in yet other pieces - but as the booklet says, we may consider that "such an approach is faithful to Hildegard's creative personality".

I might also add that there is an excellent three disc series by Stevie Wishart and Sinfonye (beginning with The Complete Hildegard von Bingen, Vol.1) as well as a series of discs by German medieval specialists Sequentia (re-released in the 8 disc boxed set Sequentia: Hildegard von Bingen). There are also two decent discs by Anonymous 4, Hildegard von Bingen - The Origin of Fire and Hildegard von Bingen - 11,000 Virgins-Chants for the Feast of St Ursula, albeit not quite as good in my estimation as these others.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 January 2016
This was the first CD of early music that I bought, more than 20 years ago, followed by many more purchases since then. Yet this CD remains for me the standout - stunning music, beautifully sung by Emma Kirkby & Gothic Voices. It is the perfect thing to listen to after a particularly difficult day - calming, contemplative, with an exquisite purity that helps to clear the mind. That's not to say this is only chillout music - that would do a disservice to Hildegard and the performers - it is superb music on any level.
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on 20 February 2016
Although the content of the CD was excellent the packaging was poor. I know this was a used item but the CD had come out of the container as there were insufficient sprockets to hold the disc. The complete case should have been fixed - sellotape would have been sufficient.
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