Benjamin Bagby has spent his career as a scholar and performer immersed in the Medieval culture of western and northern Europe. The result has been numerous programs, recordings, performances, and publications, many of them with Sequentia, the outstanding ensemble he founded with his late wife, Barbara Thornton, in 1977. In this collection, Fragments for the End of Time 9th-11th Centuries, singer and harpist Bagby and flutist and harpist Norbert Rodenkirchen sing and play an assortment of apocalyptic fragments from Frankish, Bavarian, Alsatian, Saxon, and Aquitainian sources. Bagby is a classically trained baritone with a gorgeous, full voice that would shine in traditional repertoire and he is also a superb actor. The point of these baleful pieces was to terrify listeners with awe-inspiring imagery of the end of the world, so he pulls out all the stops with a full array of vocal techniques to create that effect, moving seamlessly through a range of ghostly Sprechstimme, howling, whispering, and ranting, as well as some full-throated lyricism. It's a dazzling virtuoso performance, and it's easy to imagine it striking terror not only in its intended audiences but also with contemporary listeners able to give themselves over to its evocative power. It's astonishing that such limited resources -- voice, flutes, and harps -- can so effectively convey the immensity of these visions of the world's end. This is a performance that should captivate any fan of very early music and one that could make converts of adventurous listeners new to this repertoire. WDR's sound is clear and nicely resonant, if a little close; listeners may need to bump down the volume a little to avoid being overwhelmed, but given the subject matter, being overwhelming may, after all, be the intent.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
Thes habet er ubar woroltring (after "De die Iudiciii" from the Gospel Book of Otfrid von Weissenburg)