Music of the Day: Kassia – Byzantine Hymns

Today’s Music is Kassia’s Byzantine Hymns.

St. Kassia (c.805-865), born in Constantinople, was an Byzantine abbess, poet, composer, and hymnographer. She is one of the first medieval composers whose scores are both extant and able to be interpreted by modern scholars and musicians.

Because the German ensemble of VocaMe’s performance is so good, I was surprised that the music from the early Middle Ages could be so vividly conveyed.
Of course, there is considerable freedom regarding interpretation and arrangement, but when compared to the playing of Hildegard von Bingen’s works that performed by the same ensemble, the difference in musicality is stark.

Hildegard’s music is a monophony, and there doesn’t seem to be anything noteworthy in the melody from what I heard. Although, I do not mean to negate the spiritual aspect of Hildegard at all.
After all (from my point of view), the essence of music exists in the flow of time on this earth, and it exists only in the dimension and time of the earth.

On the other hand, Kassia’s aura is sexy, if I had to say. For some reason, there seems to be a great sense of physical existance conveyed through the music.

Well, Kassia, known for her extraordinary beauty, once entered a contest to choose an empress when she was young.
However, the Byzantine Emperor Theophilos (Θεόφιλος: 800-805 – 842), hurt by her words in return, reluctantly chose another woman. Still, for him, it is hard to forget her. It might be a little smiling to hear about a following anecdote:
When Theophilos came up to the convent wanting to see her one more time before he died, Kassia secretly hid in a closet to peek him.