Bulgaria's Gega label often releases material that is exotic by Western standards, and this collection of Eastern Orthodox church music is not an exception. No information other than a tracklist, in English and apparently Bulgarian, is included. For the most part the pieces are not chants in the Western sense. Eastern Orthodox church music has a long and unbroken history, adding new layers to a fund of liturgical melodies rather than swinging between poles of purification and strong influence from secular music like the Western sacred repertoire. The texts are set in various textures, with four-part harmony the most common one; the choir may alternate with an intoning soloist, but there is no unison choral music in the manner of Western plainchant. The music here seems to be in Old Church Slavonic and to come more often from Russia than Bulgaria; not surprising, for the national divisions of the Orthodox church (such as Latvian Orthodox) do not represent separate denominations. The vocal style here is quite distinctive, however. The ensembles are mostly or all from Sofia, Bulgaria, and their timbres are gorgeous, with males singing in heavy vibrato but tightly controlling the blend in soaring lines. Anyone who likes Rachmaninov's choral music or the recordings of the Yale Russian Choir will find an introduction to yet more unusual treasures here.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim