Hildegard von Bingen

Ave Maria, O auctrix, response

    Description by Timothy Dickey

    Whereas the doctrine of the Holy Trinity -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- was well in place in medieval theology by the time Hildegard was composing her liturgical poetry and music, when it came to her personal organization of the music, she took a radical step. She apparently set out the order in which her collected works would be inscribed into manuscript copies and preserved a clear hierarchical order. She began with works dedicated to God the Father in majesty and also divided out works to the Holy Spirit. But between them she did not include any compositions to Jesus the Son; rather, she left a rich set of music to Mary the Mother of Jesus. She left fully eight pieces of liturgical poetry and chant devoted to the Virgin Mother, clearly showing a high level of personal devotion to her, and the high importance she placed upon Marian worship in the communities of nuns over which she presided. Both of the manuscript collections closest to Hildegard begin the Marian collection with her responsory, Ave Maria.

    Numerous medieval poems and chants begin their Latin text with the reverent salutation Ave Maria, the "Hail Mary" first spoken by the Angel Gabriel when he announced to her that she would be bearing the Holy Child of God. Some chants continue with the complete Biblical text of the angelic greeting, while others devolve into diverse devotional poetry. Hildegard's poem does the latter, proceeding Ave Maria, O auctrix vite re-edificando, "Hail Mary, O authoress of reconstructed life." Her text goes on to specify that the life Mary (through her Son) made possible by the one who stood up to the devil, and because of the descent from heaven of the son of God; Mary herself is most beloved of God because of the gift of the Son through her. Hildegard's musical setting, a monophonic chant, follows the "responsory" form consisting of an opening strain, contrasting verse, repeat of the end of the opening, and a concluding doxology ("Glory be to the Father..."). She chose a melodic mode that is mostly Dorian, but is written with a C tonic; this choice with the melodic emphasis she constantly puts on the dominant pitch G lends an airy and soaring quality to the melody. Her melismas are almost uncharacteristically long, including two extremely long passages (complete with pointed melodic echoes later in the piece) on the "life" we inherit, and "spirit" that breathed from God into His Son.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Ricercar RIC 383
    2016 Odradek ODRCD 322
    2015 Healing Chants
    2014 Carpe Diem CD 16304
    2013 Christophorus CHR 77376
    2010 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 10011
    2009 Christophorus 77314
    2008 Raumklang 59802
    2004 CD Baby / Dromenon Records 81999
    2000 Raumklang 9802
    1999 Mandala 4951
    1998 DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 05472 77505-2
    1998 Koch International / Koch International Classics 7443
    1997 ORS 5403
    1997 Lyrichord LEMS8027
    1994 DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77320
    1994 Christophorus 74584
    Calig 50982
    DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 38170
    EtCetera Records / Klara 4026