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Album Cover Jocelyn Montgomery and David Lynch - Lux Vivens (Living Light): The Music of Hildgard von Bingen (Mammoth)

It would be impossible and entirely remiss for me to review this disc and not mention Delos International's 1997 release of Hildegard von Bingen's work titled "Voices of Angels." At the same time, any mention of such release is an entirely unfair comparison; Jocelyn Montgomery's soprano is no comparison for "Voices of Angels"'s Kathy Theil. And to be honest, not too many people are.

While "Lux Vivens" is both a beautiful disc and a beautiful idea, the work of Abbess von Bingen is finally getting attention from popular media after nearly 1000 years of relative obscurity, these pieces were meant to be listened to as they were originally written - as Gregorian chants. The instrumentation on this disc distracts from and obscures the power of the human voice, which was meant to be the central and sole focus of all these songs. Also, not to be a total Gregorian chant/opera snob, the tonal "stretching" required to reach all intended notes in these songs is nearly impossible to achieve without classical schooling.

Montgomery has a beautiful voice, but she's not hitting half the notes here. Like I said before, it's great that David Lynch is focusing attention on this amazing woman and her work. The press kit and the liner notes include much information about her history and the contributions she made to the Church and the medieval world in a time when women wielded little power. This is just not the way her music was intended to be heard.

by Holly Day