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This striking disc has three elements: firstly, the chants of Hildegard of Bingen treated freely, accompanied abundantly, and knitted together intricately; secondly, the long ‘Planctus David’ or lament for Saul and Jonathan, of Peter Abelard – a prism, according to Arianna Savall, through which Abelard’s desolate love for Héloïse is viewed (Petter Udland Johansen’s tenor is punctuated sparsely here only by Savall’s harp in a particularly effective and beautiful track); and thirdly, airy, atmospheric, free instrumental compositions, called Meditations and with more than a touch of ‘mood music’ about them, by Udland Johansen.

Voices, medieval and triple harps, lyras, fiddles and hardingfele, Tibetan singing bowl, monochord, flutes, Romain bells, colascione, tromba marina, nyckelharpa, viola da gamba, santur and percussion here provide a kaleidoscope of colour as Hirundo Maris take their cue from Guibert de Gembloux, Hildegard’s biographer, who vouches for her having enhanced her chanting ‘with the accompaniment of the most beautiful instruments’.

Savall uses Hildegard and Abelard, herself and Udland Johansen, to represent a variety of polarities – male and female, heavenly and earthly focus and delight, fundamental joy and fundamental sadness – in what is a conceptual and creative disc. I’d highly recommend you give it a try. The liner notes are nebulous, certainly, but the performances are startlingly beautiful and free and the arrangements endlessly creative.

Catherine Groom Read the full review on Agora Classica


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