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Norma Gentile

Yoga Journal

Unfurling Love's Creation

Although this recording certainly has a calming effect as background music, it succeeds on several less mundane levels. Gentile's artful renditions of these 12th century pieces are impressive, but this album is essentially about devotional ecstasy. The soprano's glorious voice celebrates Hildegard's union with the divine, which she has long made a subject of study. While the lyrics are overtly Christian, the sense of intimacy, trust, and abandonment in God are not typical of today's theology.

Unfurling Love's Creation
But there were three recordings that gave me unexpected pleasure, all for entirely different reasons...Second was the only solo Hildegard disc, that of the American soprano Norma Gentile...But the main virtue of this recording is that she approaches the music like the concert recitalist tackling Schubert, asking questions like "How can my voice bring the best out of this particular piece?", "Why should I in particular choose this piece rather than another?", and "What are the features of this piece that make it irresistibly vocal?" And for each piece she offers a different answer. We need more singers with that attitude in this repertory

-David Fallows

American Record Guide
Volume, No 4 July/August 1997

 Unfurling Love's Creation

A genuinely valuable contribution to the discography of Abbess Hildegard (1098-1179)... Gentile is altogether convincing in her singing of eleven selections from Hildegard's Symphonia armonie celestium revelationem compilation, including the ubiquitous O Ecclesia. She has a fine, rich-toned, splendidly controlled voice; and she realizes the shape of the melodies, in relation to the words, with great sensitivity, capturing the uniquely hypnotic, rhapsodic quality of Hildegard's mystical outpourings.

-John W. Barker




Music of a Mystic
Meditation Chants of Hildegard von Bingen

A lone soprano voice, pure and serene, echoes unaccompanied. Flitting from note to note, almost like the song of a bird, the singer conveys a sense of other-worldly joy. She invites us into the world of twelfth-century German mystic Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179).

Between 1151 and 1158, Hildegard composed seventy-seven liturgical songs for the use of her sisters in worship. 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 angle choirs." (Barbara Thornton, Canticles of Ecstasy, BMG Music, 1994).

There are eleven songs on this disc, all sung in Latin and authentic to the period by soprano Norma Gentile, a devotee of early music who has focused her research and performance on Hildegard since 1990. One of her interests is the use of music in healing, as it balances emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual dimensions.

Thus the title of this collection of Gregorian chant is Meditation Chants. Originally composed for liturgical use, these chants may be used to deepen prayer and enhance a wide range of meditation styles.

Like Gregorian chant, popularized by the successful Chant: The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos (Angel Records) in 1994, this music, too, has discovered a new life apart from its liturgical origins. We hear, not so much with an ear to its Latin texts, but with a heart open to its sacred power of healing. That is not to say that we should dismiss the texts. In fact, Hildegard's poetic depictions of the mystic religious experience are rich.

Hildegard's chant breaks free of strict Gregorian formula, not only in its texts, but in its highly emotive melodic lines, which move with grace and fluidity.

Some selection are performed by Gentile alone. In others, she sings to the subtle, yet unifying accompaniment of a 'drone chorus' of mixed voices. The purity and flexibility of voice provide a fine instrument for Hildegard's music.

Reviewed by Ray D. Hatton

Spring 1998



Creation Spirituality
Network Magazine


In Meditation Chants, Norma Gentile's exquisite soprano voice delivers each of these sacred monophonic Latin chants to the listener with a sense of healing and compassion. She and Hildegard describe the chants as translations of the subtle tones of the Universal Harmony or Cosmic Symphony. Gentile hears this symphony as well and honors

Hildegard's strength and beauty through each selection. The liner notes include the English translation of each chant. The chants provide a soothing background for meditation and simply bringing ourselves to a peaceful place that is green and lush and full of love. Enjoy the ecstasy of God by experiencing this symphony of joy and jubilation.
-Peg Noonan

More Reviews - Meditation Chants of Hildegard von Bingen
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