“O lux beata Trinitas – Music for Trinity” – Choir of Clare College, Cambridge/ Nicholas Morris, Eleanor Carter, organ/ Graham Ross – Harmonia mundi HMM 902270, 74:56 ****:

This is by my count the ninth release of Ross’s Clare College recordings dedicated to a season of the western Church year. The previous eight, for Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Passiontide, Easter, Ascensiontide & Pentecost, Corpus Christi, All Saints & All Souls, are each benchmark releases of the highest quality. This one is no different, reaching a conclusion to the church season with the last feast, that of Trinity, featured on the Sunday after Pentecost.

This disc is a little unusual in that it reflects not only the considerable tradition of British composers, but peppers it with music from the Russian Orthodox Church, which is at odds with the British concept of the Holy Trinity, inherited from the Roman Catholic Church, in its use of the so-called filioque clause, “and the son”, reflected in the Nicene Creed. The Orthodox reject this clause as a later, non-biblical, addition. Also, there is no “Trinity Sunday” in the Eastern Orthodox Church, which instead celebrates a “Monday of the Holy Spirit” where the Trinity icon is displayed, the day after Pentecost.

Nevertheless, the five Russian Cherubic Hymns that serve as the scaffolding of this program make for a fine foil for the Renaissance-to-modern English musical compositions that serve as the ten standard bearers for the Trinity theme. From John Sheppard to Joshua Pacey (born in 1995), the five sections are each preceded by a Cherubic Hymn in a themed section: Praise and Celebration; The Trisagion (Thrice-holy); Prayers; Contemplation; and Glory. The interest never flags, the compositional quality is of the highest order, and, needless to say, the sound and performances are top notch.

This is a brilliant conclusion to a must-have series of discs!

Tracklist:

1. Aleksandr Grechaninov: Heruvimskaya pesñ (Cherubic Hymn), op. 29
2. Benjamin Britten: Festival Te Deum, op.32
3. Graham Ross: Duo Seraphim
4. Charles Villiers Stanford: Psalm 150, Laudate Dominum
5. Pavel Chesnokov: Heruvimskaya pesñ (Cherubic Hymn), op. 29 no. 5
6. John Stainer: I saw the Lord
7. James MacMillan: Sanctus and Benedictus (from the Mass)
8. Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky: Heruvimskaya pesñ (Cherubic Hymn), in F major
9. John Sheppard: Libera nos, salva nos I & II
10. William Byrd: O lux beata Trinitas
11. Sergei Rachmaninov: Heruvimskaya pesñ (Cherubic Hymn), op. 31 no. 8
12. Joshua Pacey: Tres sunt
13. Mikhail Glinka: Heruvimskaya pesñ (Cherubic Hymn), op. 31 no. 11
14. Gabriel Jackson: Hymn to the Trinity (Honor, Virtus, et Potestas)
15. Charles Wood: Hail, gladdening light

—Steven Ritter