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The Boston Early Music Festival's Celebration of Women, with Tiburtina and The Three Sopranos

Amanda Forsythe and Cecilia Duarte both smile widely. They both have long dark brown hair and warm brown eyes. Dorothee Mields smizes at the camera with her green eyes. She has long hair like the other two sopranos, but it's a light strawberry blonde. On the bottom half on the frame, nine members of the Tiburtina Ensemble stand in a line with their hands on each others shoulders. They each look unique, but they all smile at the camera.
Tatiana Daubek: Forsythe; Ashkan Image: Duarte; Annelies van der Vegt: Mields; Vojtěch Havlík: Tiburtina Ensemble
Courtesy of the Artists
From top left: Amanda Forsythe, Cecilia Duarte, Dorothee Mields, and the Tiburtina Ensemble

Sunday, March 3, 2024
7:00 PM

WCRB In Concert with the Boston Early Music Festival presents two concerts that spotlight the rich legacy of women in music. First, the Prague-based, all-women vocal group Tiburtina Ensemble sings several works by the mystical 12th-century composer Hildegard von Bingen. Then, sensuous Italian Renaissance arias burst into life through the voices of The Three Sopranos, Amanda Forsythe, Dorothee Mields, and Cecilia Duarte, with the Boston Early Music Festival Continuo Ensemble.

Tiburtina Ensemble
Barbora Kabátková, Artistic Director, Medieval harp, & soprano
Ivana Bilej Brouková, soprano
Tereza Böhmová, soprano
Daniela Čermáková, alto
Anna Chadimová Havlíková, alto
Kamila Mazalová, alto
Margit Übellacker, dulce melos

Hildegard VON BINGEN
Sequentia: O Jerusalem aurea civitas
Antiphona: O tu illustrata (soloist Tereza Böhmová)
Kyrie eleison
Antiphona: O quam mirabilis est (soloist Kamila Mazalová)
ANONYMOUS Conductus: Qui de Saba veniunt (instrumental)
Hymnus: Cum vox sanguinis (soloists Daniela Čermáková, Tereza Böhmová & Barbora Kabátková)
Antiphona: O spectabiles viri (soloist Barbora Kabátková)
Antiphona: Nunc gaudeant
ANONYMOUS Conductus: Flos in monte cernitur
Antiphona: O beata infantia (soloist Daniela Čermáková)
Responsorium: Ave Maria
Antiphona: Caritas abundat (instrumental)
ANONYMOUS Conductus: Deus misertus hominis (soloists Tereza Böhmová, Barbora Kabátková, Daniela Čermáková & Kamila Mazalová)
Ordo virtutum: Virtutes – O Deus, quis es tu? (soloists Barbora Kabátková & Tereza Böhmová)
Psalmus 8: Domine, Dominus noster

Recorded on June 9, 2023 in concert at Emmanuel Church in Boston.

Read program notes and translations for Tiburtina Ensemble's "Ego Sum Homo: Musical visions of Hildegard von Bingen."

Amanda Forsythe, soprano
Dorothee Mields, soprano
Cecilia Duarte, mezzo-soprano
Boston Early Music Festival Continuo Ensemble
Paul O’Dette, lute, Musical Director
Stephen Stubbs, chitarrone & Baroque guitar, Musical Director
Charles Weaver, chitarrone
Maxine Eilander, Baroque harp
Michael Sponseller, harpsichord
David Morris, viola da gamba & lirone

Domenico MAZZOCCHI Folle cor
Luigi ROSSI Mio core languisce
ROSSI Speranza al tuo pallore
ROSSI Disperate speranze
Virgilio MAZZOCCHI Sdegno, campion audace
ROSSI Occhi belli
Marco MARAZZOLI Anima peccatrice
ROSSI Amanti piangete
MARAZZOLLI Di questo sen la piaga
ROSSI Ai sospiri, al dolore
ROSSI Fan battaglia
Stefano LANDI Passacaglia della vita

Recorded on June 10, 2023 in concert at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall in Boston.

This broadcast is no longer available on demand.

Read program notes and translations for "The Three Sopranos: Earthly Delights for Angelic Voices."

Learn more about upcoming Boston Early Music Festival concerts.

Learn more about how this show was produced in an interview with director Kendall Todd, host and producer Edyn-Mae Stevenson, and radio engineer Téa Mottolese.

Tiburtina’s founder and leader Barbora Kabátková talks with WCRB's Brian McCreath about the divinity and humanity in Hildegard Von Bingen's music. Listen withe audio player above and read the transcript underneath.


Brian McCreath I'm Brian McCreath at Emmanuel Church with Barbora Kabátková from Tiburtina Ensemble. Barbora, thanks so much for your time today, I appreciate it.

Barbora Kabátková Thank you, Brian.

Brian McCreath I want to ask you about Hildegard and this amazing program that you're singing here for the Boston Early Music Festival. And I guess, just to get right into the heart of it, what is it that makes Hildegard's music unique from its time?

Barbora Kabátková I would say it's just the style. "Just!" I said "just," but I mean the style of her composing, and of course the connection between the text and the music which is really very exceptional for her time. And how she composed, how she used the notes — the neumes — and the big range of the pieces, it's really something completely different from the other compositions of her time.

Brian McCreath Why do you think it is that she developed this unique language and unique approach? Was it because she worked in isolation? Was she self-taught or...? What drew her imagination out in ways that other composers didn't have?

Barbora Kabátková Definitely, there had to be some kind of education in the monastery where she was grown. But of course, maybe the isolation, and of course, she felt guided by God, she had many visions and so on... So religion was definitely important, and she was a very strong woman. That's why I love her so much, because I feel not only something which is divine, but also something which is very, like, close to people: that she was really a very strong woman, she knew how to behave in the crazy world of men in those days (because it was really very hard to be a woman in those days). So I think it's everything together. And, she wasn't shy about showing what she had inside herself, I mean in her heart. And she was able to write it down. She was such a nice poet, in a way. She wrote words, the text, and then she wrote the music. We imagine it like that so I hope it was like that, but I think it was real. Like, it wasn't the melody and then somehow the text, but the text and then the melody.

Brian McCreath So I want to come back to her as a person, but just from the point of view of her music, is there anything particularly challenging about her music? In other words, when you decide you're going to perform Hildegard, compared to other music of around that time, what is it that her music challenges the ensemble with in the way that other composers may not?

Barbora Kabátková You have to be a trained singer to do it well, in my opinion. Of course there are many great singers who are not trained, but because it's so complex, it's not easy to sing because you need a huge range of the voice. It goes very low and very high. What I would say is you have to really think about the words. It's not only nice music, but the words are — for me — are the most important. It's more important than the music, in a way.

Brian McCreath Now, you talk about her as a person and the remarkable person she must have been to exist in a man's world as a woman, to have the force of her own imagination and the will to bring it forward in her music. So the story of Hildegard itself is compelling aside from her music. Tell me about your own discovery of Hildegard. When did you come across her story, her music? When did you hear her music and what was its effect on you when you first came across it?

Barbora Kabátková I remember the first CD I have ever heard of her music. It was a CD of Ensemble Für Frühe Musik Augsburg and I was so touched by it. The antiphons and the responsories were sung by Sabine Lutzenberger, a singer who is now a friend of mine, a very good friend of mine, and we sing a lot together. And I was touched not only by the music, as I said, but by the texts, and so I really wanted to know every word and so on. And... It's not easy to understand, in a way, if you don't know the personality of Hildegard and if you don't know the society and the whole situation. So then I started to study everything about her. And also, I'm very fond of the period when she lived, like the 12th century, 11th and 12th century. It's my biggest hobby to study that music and the history of this period. And then of course, when you are getting old, older and older [Kabátková laughs] as we all are getting older, you find different things in her texts and in her music. So it's a long journey, in a way.

Brian McCreath Tell me about the instrumental part of the program and your work. You play a medieval harp and you have this other zither-like instrument.

Barbora Kabátková Yeah it's a dulce melos. It's kind of a psaltery.

Brian McCreath Are those instruments what we would have heard in Hildegard's music at the time that she wrote it, or are these ideas that you've brought to the music?

Barbora Kabátková Well, of course we don't know. But there is one mention in Hildegard's vitae, which is like the curriculum vitae of Hildegard, that the Psalms were accompanied by psaltery. So it's a very... close sound, as the dulce melos has and as the harp has. So maybe they used it. For some pieces by Hildegard, I would say it's perfect to have instruments accompanying, but with some pieces it doesn't work for my ears. So we need a bit of an imagination to do that. But I like it. I'm not saying it's really authentic or it was like that or whatever, but I like it and I feel it's very supportive, in a way. Maybe it's also that the instruments like harp and psaltery and dulce melos are, for me, female instruments.

Brian McCreath It adds an atmosphere that also does blend with the female voices.

Barbora Kabátková Yeah.

Brian McCreath And I wanted to ask you about Tiburtina Ensemble in general and your idea of founding it as an all-women's ensemble. Tell me about the impetus, your initial idea and spark for wanting to found an all-female ensemble, and why your decision was to do that rather than a mixed ensemble of voices.

Barbora Kabátková Well, I didn't want to do that. [Kabátková laughs] It was just—[McCreath laughs] it just happened! A few of us, we were singing in a group called Sola Benedicta. It was a female group. There was a conductor, a man conductor. And it was very nice, but we just wanted to do it a little bit differently. So we thought, okay, we will find other singers and do it in a different way. And then I started to study plainchant and choir conducting and church music and musicology and so on. And yeah, and then we just met other people, and it was—really, I don't know how it happened. We just were on stage [Kabátková chuckles] and it was great! But of course, it was very hard to start everything. When you found a new ensemble, you really have to work a lot. But I had no children in those days, so I was okay. My new child was Tiburtina.

Brian McCreath Tell me about the name Tiburtina. Where does that come from?

Barbora Kabátková Oh yes. I was reading a book about Hildegard, actually. It was in the period when we wanted to have a new ensemble, and I was just reading the index and then there was a name "Tiburtina." And of course I knew because I read the book that it was one of the sibyls and Hildegard was fond of this sibyl, and she was just saying a lot about her and writing a lot about her. And I said, "Oh, 'Tiburtina.' That's a nice name, but, well, it's a [Kabátková smiles] it's a railway station in Rome. But the sound is so nice! 'Tiburtina!' Okay, let's use it. [Kabátková giggles] Tiburtina Ensemble." It's nice because it's a bit funny. It's a railway station, and we are (most of the time) we are on the road. [Kabátková and McCreath laugh] So going somewhere by train, plane, and car, or whatever. Boat sometimes as well.

Brian McCreath Oh that's great! That's fantastic.

Barbora Kabátková It was the sibyl so it was also like, you know, prophecy and, "Ah, it came from God!" and so on [Kabátková and McCreath laugh] so...

Brian McCreath Fantastic. Well, so this is your first time singing at the Boston Early Music Festival—

Barbora Kabátková Yes.

Brian McCreath —and so we're really happy you're here. I mean, you have a vast repertoire, you've made several recordings. Why did you choose this particular program, "Visions of Hildegard," for this particular concert?

Barbora Kabátková Well it's the theme of the festival, women. So It was very nice to propose that. And of course, it's also what I see as very important in my relationship to Hildegard, as I told you already, that I see her not only like someone with visions and someone so gifted, but also like a human being. So that's why the name of the program is "Ego sum homo," like "I'm a human being." I think Hildegard is, for our first concert in Boston, I think it's [a] very good way to show what we can do. Yeah.

Brian McCreath A great introduction to the audience. [Kabátková laughs] Fantastic. Barbora Kabátková, thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate it.

Barbora Kabátková Thank you, Brian.