Trio Mediaeval

Trio Mediaeval

Fri   Mar   22   2024 - 6:30 PM St. John's Cathedral Sat   Mar   23   2024 - 12:00 PM St. John's Cathedral

“Singing doesn’t get more unnervingly beautiful.” – San Francisco Chronicle

The crystalline voices of Trio Mediaeval have captivated audiences since 1997. The Grammy-nominated trio’s core repertoire features sacred monophonic and polyphonic medieval music from England, Italy, and France; contemporary works written for the ensemble; and traditional Norwegian, Swedish, and Icelandic ballads and songs. The group’s fruitful relationship with the legendary ECM Records, collaborative spirit, and busy touring schedule has earned them worldwide renown. Since 2006, the trio has embarked on a number of collaborative projects with Norwegian jazz/improvisational musicians, including Trygve Seim, Frode Haltli, Tord Gustavsen Trio, Arve Henriksen, Sinikka Langeland Ensemble, Mats Eilertsen Trio, and others. In 2023, 2L released Trio Mediaeval’s latest recording, An Old Hall Ladymass


TRIO MEDIAEVAL / Big Ears 2024

Hildegard, Norwegian traditional hymns and contemporary works written for Trio Mediaeval.


Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)


from “Missa Lumen de Lumine”* (2002) 

Sungji Hong (b. 1973)

O frondens virga 

Hildegard von Bingen

Pris vare gud

Swedish traditional hymn from Nuckö, Estonia 

Krist er oppstanden

Traditional Norwegian medieval hymn/Salzburg 1160 

Arr. Linn Andrea Fuglseth

Caritas abundat

Hildegard von Bingen

Ubi caritas* (2019)

Andrew Smith (b. 1970)

Office of St. Thorlak, Vespers antiphon and psalm I,II,III 

Iceland, C14 

Sol lucet* (2022)

Marianne R. Eriksen (b. 1971) 

De Spiritu Sancto

Hildegard von Bingen

Nu rinder solen opp
Traditional hymn from Ørsta, Norway
Arr. Linn Andrea Fuglseth

Abba, hjärtans fader god

Swedish tradititional hymn from Nuckö, Estonia

Arr. Anna Maria Friman

Ave generosa 

Hildegard von Bingen

alleluia amen* (2022)

David Lang (b. 1957) 

* Composed for Trio Mediaeval

The performances of Trio Mediaeval represent a unique coming together of past and present, places and cultures, spanning hundreds of years and thousands of miles. As well as exploring the rich medieval European repertoire, the ensemble has consistently commissioned composers from all over the world who themselves appreciate the music of their medieval predecessors.

This programme features the music of Hildegard von Bingen, Scandinavian traditional hymns and motets by four living composers inspired by Trio Mediæval’s work on folk music and ancient medieval repertoires. Hildegard, who died near Koblenz in 1179 at the age of 81, left a remarkable legacy of liturgical and medical treatises, a musical morality play and a collection of sacred sequences, hymns and antiphons, all of which have rich and colourful texts of her own devising.  She is one of the first composers that we can put a name to.   The medieval pieces are all taken from Hildegard’s anthology Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum (literally ‘Symphony of the harmony of celestial revelations’, though the key words have wider meanings than our modern usage). This substantial collection of poetic texts, almost all with music, survives in two manuscripts. The earlier version was probably compiled in Hildegard’s Rupertsberg scriptorium around 1175 as a gift for the monks of nearby Villers; the second dates from the 1180s sometime after the composer’s death, 

and is an expanded commemorative volume. The Kyrie in this programme is something of an oddity – it’s the only one in the collection, the others being either sequences (with pairs of verses) usually sung in the Mass between the Alleluia and the Gospel, or strophic Hymns which do not feature in the Mass at all. Hildegard von Bingen´s Kyrie is followed by a 21st century polyphonic version composed for the Trio by the Korean composer Sungji Hong. 

The other curiosity is ‘O frondens virga’, one of two antiphons which didn’t find their way into the second manuscript. The texts are typical of Hildegard’s oevre, rhapsodic and colourful.  ‘Ave generosa’ is a rapturous outpouring of praise to the Virgin, eliding chastity, nature and music itself; ‘Caritas abundat’ is a simple evocation of the universal nature of divine love.

Norwegian and Swedish folk songs have complemented the Trio’s repertoire of sacred music and contemporary pieces since they began singing together in 1997. Although none of them grew up as a folk musician, they were nevertheless surrounded by folk music, and Linn Andrea and Anna Maria have arranged many Nordic and Scandinavian folk hymns for their ensemble. This ancient oral tradition is also found in the Swedish-speaking community in Estonia (ruled by Sweden for some 400 years until the early 18th century). There were still Swedish speakers in Estonian coastal communities in the early 20th century, when composer and folksong collector Cyrillus Kreek and his Swedish contemporary Olof Andersson collected many old melodies that might otherwise have been forgotten, including those from Nuckö included in this programme. Derived both from the Lutheran Hymnal and old secular songs, the hymn tunes were originally sung heterophonically – everyone singing freely together, the more skilful singers varying and ornamenting the melody. Later, they were performed by individual singers. Here, they find new life, retrieved from a distant past in a once-remote part of our planet. 

Ubi caritas was composed for the trio by Andrew Smith, an English composer living in Oslo. 

David Lang’s Alleluia Amen is a meditation (beginning ‘with impossible fragility’) on the two words common to both Jewish and Christian traditions for two thousand years; Marianne Eriksen’s Sol lucet sets similarly timeless lines from the Satyricon of Petronius. 

All four composers reach into the sound world of Trio Mediaeval, weaving their music into a thread first spun almost a millennium ago.

-John Potter-

Knoxville, TN · USA



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