Page 13 - Church Music Quarterly June 2019
P. 13

    Ordo virtutum might be sung, since it commemorates the day that Hildegard (and her spiritual mother, Jutta) entered monastic life.
Most recordings of Hildegard’s music follow a more soloistic concert performance style, often with stunning results musically and aurally. The nuns at the modern Hildegard Abbey, however, have modelled a liturgical approach to Hildegard’s repertory. They sing Hildegard’s antiphons as they would have been sung in a medieval context, with the antiphon sung by the group preceding the intonation of a psalm
or the Magnificat (the intonation with a solo/group alternation), which is followed by a return of the antiphon sung once again by the group. For the responsory, ‘O vis aeternitatis’, a group sings the respond as well as the repetendum (the end of
the respond) after each verse is sung by a soloist.
For Hildegard’s sequences, the choir alternates a group response to a soloist to capture the pairing
of the musical lines in the sequence structure.
For choral directors and singers, there are many resources easily accessible for bringing Hildegard’s music liturgically to modern congregations. The two main manuscript collections of her music have been available in beautiful colour facsimile editions for
Her threat is not subtle: either remove the sanction or spend eternity in hell
some time, and both manuscripts are now available digitally: the manuscript formerly held at the Saint Peter and Paul Abbey in Dendermonde, Belgium
and held now in Leuven is available on the IDEM database hosted by the Alamire Foundation, and the so-called Riesencodex in Wiesbaden, Germany is hosted on the Hochschule RheinMain website. Barbara Newman has published English translations of Hildegard’s musical texts with commentary, while Marianne Richert Pfau has published a modern
performance edition of almost all of Hildegard’s music (except for the Ordo virtutum). The most interesting of the numerous editions of the Ordo virtutum is Luca Ricossa’s gorgeous colour edition, which reproduces the original notation with the Latin text and French translations interspersed throughout.
While Hildegard’s music does not appear to have had wide circulation in the immediate centuries after she composed it, since its first modern performance in 1857 under the direction of a parish priest in Eibingen, Ludwig Schneider, it has become possibly the most widely recognized plainchant
from the Middle Ages. Yet even in the only full-length feature film about her life, Vision aus dem Leben
der Hildegard von Bingen, directed by Margarethe von Trotta (2009), Hildegard’s music is not sung
in a regular liturgical context by the nuns in her convent in the film; one nun accompanies herself on a medieval stringed instrument while singing
‘O quam pretiosa’ in the infirmary, and another nun sings ‘O vis aeternitatis’ as a solo in the chapel while the other nuns pray. Perhaps readers of the Church Music Quarterly will take up the challenge of using some of Hildegard’s music liturgically as we await the 850th anniversary of her death in 2029.

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