Personalities | Hildegard of Bingen | Medieval Era | Classical
(Hil-de-gart of Bin’-gen) 1098–1179
German Abbess and Composer
Hildegard of Bingen was abbess of a convent at Rupertsberg near Bingen in Germany. When she was in her forties, Hildegard started to produce remarkable works of theology, science, healing, drama, history and music. She advised religious and secular rulers as well as undertaking preaching tours. She presented her work as the word of God, told to her through intensely dramatic visions, which was probably the only way that, as a woman, she would have been allowed to communicate her ideas to a wider public.
Music, which Hildegard saw as a way of recapturing the beauty of paradise and reconnecting the human to the divine, played a vital part in the mystical atmosphere of her convent. Her main musical work is the Symphonia harmoniae caelestium revelationum (‘Symphony of the Harmony of the Heavenly Revelations’). This is a collection of 77 liturgical songs for which she wrote both text and music. The vividly individual lyrics are matched by sensual and unusually elaborate melody, always a freely composed single line. Hildegard also wrote one of the earliest surviving morality plays with music, Ordo Virtutum (‘Play of the Virtues’), which depicts the battle between the Devil and the 16 Virtues for the human soul.
A Feather on the Breath of God – Sequences & Hymns, Emma Kirkby, Gothic Voices (dir) Christopher Page (Hyperion)
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