Hildegard portraits

Voice (Victoria Couper, Clemmie Franks, Emily Burn)
SOMM recordings SOMMCD 0652

At the heart of this recording by the vocal trio Voice is a seven-movement work “Hildegard Portraits” by contemporary composer Laura Moody with works by Ivan Moody, Marcus Davidson, Tim Lea Young, Stevie Wishart and, of course, Hildegard herself. For Hildegard’s music, Voice produce a beautifully focussed pure sound and in their unison singing move with absolute unanimity. Occasionally, a sympathetic drone emphasises a particular section of music, and the whole proceeds with what I can only describe as an attractive swing. The vocal quality is ‘whiter’ than other comparable groups with a pleasing naïve quality. In the contemporary music, the voices split more consistently into three-part harmony, and this too seemed to me beautifully balanced and perfectly tuned. Interestingly, Laura Moody selects her texts for her “Hildegard Portraits” from the abbess’s letters, thereby revealing a more worldly and human side of this remarkable woman than we are usually privy to. Interweaving adventurous polyphony with episodes of pseudo-speech, these pieces – receiving their first recording here – are constantly engaging and intriguing in these virtuosic performances by Voice. The other contemporary works, some written specifically for the ensemble, exploit other aspects of the singers’ talents. The programme note emphasises the group’s customary creative use of space in live performance and there is some attempt to replicate this in the recording, with the singers moving through the church in one of the Hildegard tracks. While this is quite effective, I found the default acoustic a little immediate and wanted a little more space to allow the voices to bloom. On balance though, these are lovely performances, and a valuable opportunity to hear Hildegard’s music sung to a very high standard, and presented in an unusual context of music that comments on her everyday life and her music.

D. James Ross

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