Album review: Ensemble Belcanto, Dietburg Spohr, Hildegard von Bingen: Ordo Virtutum (ECM New Series)


On this account of Hildegard von Bingen's Ordo Virtutum, the Ensemble Belcanto avoids what founder Dietburg Spohr describes as the "emotive sonic incense" that the medieval composer is often subjected to.

Instead, Spohr's group view her work as a bridge to contemporary music, reflecting the song cycle's questioning attitude in arrangements of different techniques that represent the "virtues" and "characters" counselling the soul on its spiritual journey.

In some verses, dissonant harmonies represent the struggle; in others, a childlike register evokes innocence. Elsewhere, a series of innovations – breathing, whistling – lend an astringent feel arguably truer to the original intentions.

Download: Ordo Virtutum