HILDEGARD von BINGEN, 1098—1179 / Sequentia

Deutsche Harmonia Mundi / BMG 05472 77378 2 · 2 CDs


CD 1

an Gottvater
1. O magne pater  [3:12]
Antiphon · Thornton

an den hl. Bonifatius
2. O Bonifaci  [2:54]
Antiphon · Männervokalensemble

an den hl. Disibodus
3. O mirum admirandumDomine est terra  [7:59]
Antiphon — Psalmus
McSweeney, Männervokalensemble

4. Instrumentalstück  [7:34]

5. O viriditas digiti Dei  [5:56]
Thornton, Frauenensemble, Fideln, Organistrum

6. O beata infantiaDomine, Dominus noster   [6:02]
Antiphon — Psalmus
Mentzel, Grant, Guttry, MsSweeney, Männervokalensemble

7. O felix anima  [6:40]
Responsorium · Männervokalensemble

8. Instrumentalstücke  [6:37]

9. O presul vere civitatis  [8:47]
Dellal, Knutson, Hargis, Mayer, Youngdahl, Frauenvokalensemble, Fideln

CD 2

an den hl. Maximinus
1. Columba aspexit   [6:34]
Sequenz · Männervokalensemble

2. Instrumentalstücke  [5:29]
Fideln, Harfe

an die hl. Ursula
3. O Eclesia  [7:49]
Sequenz · Thornton, Frauenvokalensemble

4. Spiritui Sancto  [5:56]
Responsorium · Mayer, Frauenvokalensemble, Fidel (Gaver)

an den hl. Mathias
5. Mathias, sanctus per electionem  [6:41]
Sequenz · Männervokalensemble

an die heiligen Witwen
6. O pater omnium  [Symphonia viduarum]  [4:38]
Knutson, Frauenvokalensemble

an den hl. Eucharius
7. O Euchari, columba virtutem illius  [6:13]
Responsorium · Grant, Guttry, Männervokalensemble

8. O Euchari, in leta via ambulasti  [7:00]
Sequenz · Männervokalensemble, Organistrum

SEQUENTIA, Ensemble für Musik des Mittelalters
Barbara Thornton & Benjamin Bagby

Vox feminae
Barbara Thornton
Barbara Thornton, Pamela Dellal, Suzanne Ehly, Ellen Hargis,
Lydia Heather Knuthson, Nancy Mayer, Caitriona O'Leary, Janet Youngdahl

Sons of Thunder
Benjamin Bagby
Benjamin Bagby, John Fleagle, Stephen Grant, Paul Guttry, William Hite,
Frank Kelley, Eric Mentzel, Marc McSweeney

• Instrumentalensemble
Elizabeth Gaver

Elizabeth Gaver, Rachel Evans, Robert Mealy, Mittelalterliche Fideln
Benjamin Bagby, Mittelalterliche Harfe

Sources: Music
All performing editions based on: Wiesbaden, Hessische Landesbibliothek, MS 2 ("Riesenkodex").
With thanks to Dr. Wolfgang Podehl and the staff of then Mitarbeitern der Hessischen Landesbibliothek.
The performing editions of the Symphoniae were prepared by Barbara Thornton (women) and Benjamin Bagby (men), based on the original manuscript.
Assistance with the edition of Nr. 3 (CD 1), as well as Psalm texts and tones provided by Barbara Stühlmeyer (Hof an der Saale).
The instrumental music was conceived and arranged by Elizabeth Gaver.

Sources: Texts
All text editions and English translations by Peter Dronke (Cambridge), copyright 1998. Psalm texts from Vulgate Bible (Latin) and New Jerusalem Bible (translations).

5-string fddle (Gayer) by Richard Earle (Basel, 1988)
3-string fiddle (Gayer) by Richard Earle (Basel, 1995)
5-string fiddle (Evans) by Rainer Ullreich (Wien, 1991)
5-string fiddle (Mealy) by Karl Dennis (Rhode Island USA, 1993)
Organistrum by Alan Crumpler (Leominster, GB, 1982)
Harp by Geoff Ralph (London 1982)

© 1998 BMG Entertainment
A & R direction: Nicola Kremer
Recorded in the church of the Campion Center, Weston MA (USA), 11-18 June, 1996.
Produced by: Elizabeth Ostrow
Executive producer: Jon Aaron
Production assistant (USA): Lottie Labys
Produclion assistant (Germany): Joachim Kuehn
Sound engineer: John Newton (soundmirror, Boston MA, USA)
Editor: Jeff Baust
Front cover: Hildegard von Bingen: Scivias
Tafel 35/Schau III 13 "Die Chöre der Seligen",
Abtei St. Hildegard, Eibingen
Cover design: BMG Ariola/A. Döhring
Text editor: Dr. Jens Markowsky
All rights reserved

Hildegard von Bingen

Hildegard von Bingen's spiritual compositions represent a pinnacle of individual creation in an distinguished age of art and thought. The twelfth century is widely referred to as having witnessed a "Renaissance" in the sense of a full cultural flowering, and this reputation is largely due to the exceptional intellectual vigor, philosophical depth, and aesthetic brilliance of the monastic arts of the time. The manner in which theological renewal, economic well-being, and far-reaching social innovations came together to support monastic life accounts in part for the phenomenal musical and literary output of Hildegard von Bingen and some of her contemporaries. Already as an adolescent, she lived the cloistered life according to Benedictine Rule (see the accompanying essay by Barbara Stühlmeyer), first in the double (male and female) monastery called Disibodenberg, west of the Rhine, and then, at the height of her powers, as the leader of her own community at Rupertsberg on the Rhine near Bingen. As abbess of Rupertsberg, Hildegard's authority, fame, and creative power increased significantly. Between 1151 and 1158 she was writing and collecting her musical compositions intended to be sung by the sisters at the convent at liturgical and other functions. She called them symphoniae harmoniae celestium revelationum, a title meant to indicate their divine inspiration as well as the idea that music is the highest form of human activity, mirroring as it does the ineffable sounds of heavenly spheres and angel choirs. It was also during this time that she carried out an extensive correspondence with important personalities in ecclesiastical and temporal circles, as well as turning her energies to compiling encyclopedic works on natural science and the healing arts. In her own time, as in ours, the "Sibyl of the Rhine" amazes those with the ears to hear her. "It is said that you are raised to Heaven, that much is revealed to you, and that you bring forth great writings, and discover new manners of song..." wrote Master Odo of Paris in 1148. Then, as now, she is admired for fearlessly exploring the cosmos with her vision, for creating a moving feminine theology which nonetheless remains in awe of both the masculine and feminine divine powers. Her ability to function in the real, political world is as impressive as her complete dedication to the life of the soul, and to nurturing it among her cloistered sisters.

Barbara Thornton


Hildegard to Kuno, abbot of Disibodenberg:

"O man, why do you sleep at the sound of the taste of good works which sound like a symphony before God? And why do you not deny wanton exuberance by examining the mansion of your heart? ... And why do you not fear to destroy him whom you have not created? You do not anoint him, for you neither shield nor shelter him, but all too severely reprimand him ...". (Epistola 74R).

Hard words form the basis of the gift of vocal pieces in honour of St Disibod which Hildegard despatched to her former abbot. She obviously held him to be a person who himself needed to follow his patron saint's good example. There are reasons why she worded her missive so directly. The story of her life makes them clear.

"When Heinrich IV ruled the Holy Roman Empire, there lived in Rhenish Franconia a virgin, high-born by virtue of the nobility of her lineage and her holiness alike, named Hildegard. Her father was called Hildebert, her mother Mechthild. Although involved in the cares of the world and richly blessed with material possessions, they were yet not ungrateful for the gifts their Creator had bestowed upon them and dedicated their daughter to the service of God". (The life of St Hildegard of Bingen, First Book, First Chapter).

From a very young age Hildegard was integrated into a social network rich in connections. She was related to many of the great people of the realm. She did not know fear. Therein lay the roots of her inner freedom, with which she would later rebuke Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa. Hildebert, her father, was connected with the Count of Spanheim, and so Hildegard came to Jutta of Spanheim, at a time when it was normal to be removed from parental care at the age of eight. Jutta was at that time fourteen - she became mother, friend and confidante to Hildegard. They conducted many conversations of which we have no knowledge. And they both studied at the castle of Spanheim. For a number of years Uda of Göllheim was the woman who taught them everything that was regarded as worth knowing. Uda was a widow - a status esteemed almost as highly as that of a virgin.

"Virgins are wedded in the holy spirit of piety and in the dawn of virginity. ... Therefore, for the sake of freedom and the revelation residing in the mystical breath of the finger of God, it behoves a virgin to don a robe of radiant white, as a clear token of her marriage to Christ". (Epistola 52R, Hildegard to Tengswich of Andernach) - "O viriditas digiti Dei".

Devotion, commitment and the utmost freedom characterized the life that Jutta and Hildegard led: freedom and boldness of action. Jutta's father Stefan was long dead. Jutta was strong. Against the will of her family she had herself dedicated as a virgin by bishop Ruthard of Mainz. Even as a child she had been instructed "in the holy sciences". Uda of Göllheim was not only a teacher but also a spiritual companion for the fourteen-year-old - and also for Hildegard, who was seeking a way to deal with what she "heard and saw". Another girl joined them, and she was also called Jutta. They conceived a bold plan. The three of them would embark on a pilgrimage - Peregrinatio, the lot of a pilgrim.

"Where am I a foreigner? In the shadow of death. And which way do I take? The way of error. And what consolation do I have? That which pilgrims to foreign lands have. I should have a tabernacle, adorned with five cut stones which shine brighter than the sun and stars". (Scivias I, 4).

Meinhard, Jutta's brother, was appalled. Then Jutta's mother Sophie died. Meinhard offered his sister and the two girls Hildegard and Jutta a "substitute" for pilgrimage: confinement in a convent. The idea was a clever move. The place was Disibodenberg. There shines

"the splendour of the angels. A topaz should be (the) foundation (of the tabernacle) and its walls be all precious stones, its stairs being inlaid with crystal and its ways paved with gold".
(Scivias I, 4).

Disibod himself had been a pilgrim and foreigner, having been exiled with his parents as a child. After becoming a priest and finally a bishop, he set out once again, forsook everything he knew and went to a foreign country.

"After leaving Ireland and roaming many regions and diligently studying many places, seeking rest for his soul he at last arrived in Germany, where he encountered a hard and wild people, and there he became tired and checked his stride a while, so as to be able to offer this same people words of salvation and examples of holiness. Many heard him and loved him, but many did not care either to listen to him or to love him. And when he had come to sojourn in this province, and considered whither he might turn, he heard good and sweet news of the union with God of the blessed Benedict, who had lately wandered through the world and who, through his union with God, had forsaken many who dearly loved him and so through the admonition of the Holy Spirit came to recognize that his yearning, that which he had long yearned for because he had once united himself with the people, could not yet be fulfilled until he had gathered men of true and perfect union with God around himself. For that was the reason why he kept going from place to place and found neither in these places, nor in the customs of their peoples, that which his soul craved".
(Vita Disibodi).

He was slipse with whom the three young women could identify; he was their travelling-companion, and the place around which his activities centred provided them with a point of orientation in their lives. Hildegard later wrote down his biography - at the request of Abbot Helenger, who wrote to her:

"Truly now, Mother, the spiritual wine of the Lord's wedding has quite run out for me". (Epistolae, 76).

Like Jutta and Hildegard, he had been confronted even as a child with the feeling of being different from others, of being unable to communicate with those around him. Hildegard and Jutta's independent design for living was therefore able to take root at Disibodenberg. They lived there for many long years and it was here that Hildegard found Volmar, who was to become her secretary and friend. When writing about him she refers to herself in the third person.

"And one found someone and loved him, having perceived him to be a reliable person and like to oneself in performing the tasks related to me". (Scivias, preface).

When Jutta died, Hildegard succeeded her in the office of magistra, or head of the convent that the community of women had now grown to be. Yet she still came to make a pilgrimage. After Hildegard had started writing down her visions and after she had been declared a prophetess, first by Bernhard of Clairvaux and then by the Pope and the synod of Trier, she could not stay at Disibodenberg. Was she not like Ursula and her virgins, who had undertaken a pilgrimage to Rome and to the Pope and who had been honourably received there? In Spiritui Sancto Hildegard in a way presents a picture of her community of sisters, using the story of Ursula and her companions. They founded their community on the basis of their common reaching out in longing for the embrace of the Lamb. Herein they endeavoured to stand firm in the power of God, which forms the central focus of Hildegard's Ordo Virtutum, the contemptus mundi, the going beyond, the transcendence of the world. This attitude enabled the nuns to be like a mountain, which in the traditional language of symbols is the place to meet God. After having overcome many obstacles, Hildegard and her sisters moved to Rupertsberg. It was situated most favourably at the junction of several trading routes; the sisters' aura could thus radiate unhampered from this point. Yet there was more. Rupert had also undertaken a pilgrimage and so given his life new direction. If her relatives and friends were her mortal fellow wayfarers, the saints were the vital unseen figures in her life, the "companions of the angels". Hildegard herself found guidance and counsel during her life, and she passed this on to her fellow sisters. They were, like Hildegard herself, of noble birth, integrated into multifarious social connections and subject to the temptations of power. Hildegard speaks to them in the biography of Rupert:

"And whereas he had great influence in the throng of the worldly by virtue of his great riches and his family, through which he felt himself drawn to the material world: nonetheless, he began to consider the manner in which the blessed Alexius, in the role of a pilgrim, had taken leave of father and mother, of his house and the riches of the world. And he chose to imitate this saint in every way so that he might more freely serve God in solitude. When his mother sensed these signs in him, although he hid it from her, she said to him in tears: "Be mindful of the pain in your mother's limbs; hearken to the sigh of your widowed mother and look to your family, that trusts in you alone; and take care that you do not cause us unreasonable pain: for with our means you may help the poor and needy and all those who require assistance in any way you please. And what would be better for you and more useful than to serve God so?". (Vita Ruperti).

Hildegard wrote the vocal pieces in honour of Disibod and Rupert primarily for her convent and for the Benedictine brothers at Disibodenberg. This also applies to the antiphon in honour of Boniface. He is the "friend of the living God, the shining light" that, "in his good will, points in the right directions". (antiphon O Bonifaci). Boniface was closely associated with Disibod - a holy friendship down through the ages. As bishop responsible for Mainz, he journeyed to Disibodenberg and raised up the remains of Disibod to honour the altars. Boniface was a person who applied himself with immense determination and admirable energy to his life's work - the spreading of the faith. Like Disibod, he forsook his home (England), where he would have been able to lead a secure life among educated Christians, and motivated numerous men and women from his native land to work together with him. His example gave Hildegard and her nuns the courage to make a completely new start at Rupertsberg -

"rich, aristocratic women" who "descended from a place where they lacked nothing, into such poverty". (Hildegard's autobiography).

The vocal pieces for Eucharius, Maximin and Matthew were intended for the Benedictine convent in Trier, which is closely associated with these saints. Hildegard had extraordinarily close contact with the monks of this monastery. She was, as is clear from her correspondence, a kind of spiritual companion for the monks. They read her works and sought her counsel time and again on critical issues. She also visited the monastery on one of her journeys. Since these compositions were intended for the monks' liturgy, it is only logical that these works be performed by men. According to legend, Eucharius was a pupil of the apostle Peter. He became the first bishop of the city of Trier and, following his death in Poitiers, his remains were returned there. Through his love,

"shining like the light of dawn", he has "built the foundation of the church". "Through your teachings the church becomes potent in its rationality". ("O Euchari" sequence).

Matthew is particularly associated with Trier because his grave is in that city. For the old church Trier thus became one of the important diocesan towns - which were always connected with the grave of an apostle. Matthew, "holy through being among God's chosen", embodies for Hildegard the idea of compensatory representation. He was elected to replace the betrayer Judas Iscariot in the apostolic brotherhood through the drawing of lots. Hildegard was confident that, for their part, all people are called upon to form the choir of the heavenly host, which was originally constituted by Lucifer and his angels and which fell into the realm of darkness when they turned away from God.

"In you the Holy Ghost sings and plays, for you have joined the choirs of angels. ... You are a companion to the angels". ("O Jerusalem" sequence).

Maximin is one of St Eucharius's successors. He is also buried in the abbey named for the three important saints of Trier. He is the radiant saint, whose aura is like a balm, and "lights up in the darkness like a sparkling gem".

Barbara Stühlmeyer
Translation: J & M Berridge