“Panagia – Orthodox Hymns to the Mother of God” – Archangel Voices/ Vladimir Morosan – Archangel Voices

by | Nov 26, 2013 | Classical CD Reviews

“Panagia – Orthodox Hymns to the Mother of God” – Archangel Voices/ Vladimir Morosan – Archangel Voices AV-107, 77:55 [www.archangelvoices.com] *****:

Currently the United States has two premier and pre-eminent performing groups that specialize in the execution of Orthodox liturgical chant—Capella Romana, under the direction of Alexander Lingas, brings Byzantine chant to the public at large through tours and recordings (along with much requisite research and publication as well) while the more Slavic side of the chant repertory is captured by the folks under review, Vladimir Morosan and his wonderful Archangel Voices. There is one difference however—Morosan’s group presents these chants in English and isn’t definitively hooked into Slavic chant, as this recording amply demonstrates, including Byzantine and other arrangements and new works by contemporary liturgical composers as well. He also runs the important website www.musicarussica.com, a vast resource for recordings and sheet music.

This new recording, Panagia, is dedicated to hymns written in honor of the Panagia, a Greek term meaning “All Holy” referring to the Theotokos, or Mother of God—the Virgin Mary. In Orthodox hymnology she is exalted and extolled to a high degree, her role in salvation history seen as critical and in many ways foundational to the event of the incarnation of Christ. As might be expected, many composers over the years have set the many texts devoted to her to music, and most of these hymns are quite ancient in origin. Every single service in the Orthodox Church—without exception—mentions her in terms of glowing praise for her divine motherhood and extols her many virtues and intercessory power. As such the opportunities for composition are vast, finding poetry and hymns from the daily offices, the feasts dedicated to the Virgin Mary, some of the seasonal offerings (like those found during the Nativity season) and those hymns that, while not specifically liturgical, often serve in a quasi-liturgical function or for more popular usage like carols and other sacred songs. Space precludes me from expanding on these individually, but the excellent notes to this release provide a good overview of each. Speaking of which, there are no texts provided here, though they are all available on the ensemble’s website.

The variety of styles here is quite vast, and adds to the overall attractiveness of the program. Some pieces are extraordinarily beautiful, like Pavel Chesnokov’s O Victorious Leader (sung at the service known as the “Akathist Hymn” during Great Lent, and at the end of the First Hour, or “Prime” as it is known in the west), or the exquisite Georgian melody used for O Vineyard, Fair and New and other texts as well, guaranteed to bring a chill to your spine. But the new compositions, Kurt Sander’s All of Creation (used in the Lenten Sunday liturgy of St. Basil the Great) and Morosan’s own I Will Receive the Cup of Salvation (a liturgy communion hymn) are equally effective in bringing new ideas that reflect the same timeless and calming spirit of Orthodox chant to the present century—old wine in new wineskins, if you will. The ensemble, three sopranos, four altos (no countertenors!), three tenors, and four basses, are marvelously balanced and in possession of a lustrous and gleaming tonal quality, each member well-versed in the intricacies of this music. St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Orange, Connecticut provides the venue that allows the music to unfold naturally in a wide and spacious acoustic. A perfect stocking stuffer, and highly recommended!


1. It Is Truly Fitting-Dmitry Yaichkov (arr. of Bulgarian Chant)
2. O Most Holy Theotokos-Pavel Chesnokov
3. Open unto Us the Doors of Compassion-Alexander Kastalsky
4. Virgin Theotokos, Rejoice-Kurt Sander
5. General Canon to the Theotokos, Odes 1, 3, 6, 9-Pavel Chesnokov
6. My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord-Pavel Chesnokov
7. Praises for the Nativity of the Theotokos, Sticheron 1-Model melody “Oh, most glorious wonder,” Tone 8
8. Praises for the Nativity of the Theotokos, Sticheron 2-Model melody “Oh, most glorious wonder,” Tone 8
9. Praises for the Nativity of the Theotokos, Sticheron 3-Model melody “Oh, most glorious wonder,” Tone 8, arr. Nazo Zakkak
10. Stichera for the Entrance of the Theotokos-Model melody “Joy of the Heavenly Hierarchies”
11. Communion Hymn “I Will Receive the Cup of Salvation”-Vladimir Morosan
12. Verses 9th Ode for the Presentation of the Lord-Nazo Zakkak (arr. of Byzantine Melody)
13. Troparion for Annunciation “Today Is the Beginning of Our Salvation”-Nazo Zakkak
14. Magnification for the Annunciation “With the Voice of the Archangel”-Dmitry Bortniansky
15. Exaposteilarion for the Annunciation “The Mystery of God”-Andrei Ilyashenko
16. O Victorious Leader-Pavel Chesnokov (arr. of Kievan Chant)
17. Akathist Hymn to the Mother God – Ikos 1-Traditional Moscow Melody
18. Awed by the Beauty-Richard Toensing (arr. of Byzantine Chant)
19. All of Creation-Kurt Sander
20. The Angel Cried-Alexander Nikolsky (arr. of Russian “Greek” Chant)
21. Festal Hymn to the Theotokos for Pentecost “Rejoice, O Queen”-Vladimir Morosan (arr. of Znamenny Chant)
22. Stichera at Lord, I Have Cried for Dormition-Model melody: “Oh, the marvelous wonder,” Tone 1
23. Apostles, Assembled Here-Melody of the Kievan Caves Monastery
24. Apostles, Assembled Here-Grigory Lvovsky (arr. of Kievan Caves Monastery Melody)
25. Beneath Your Compassion-Dmitry Bortniansky (arr. of a traditional hymn)
26. My Queen Most Blessed-Traditional Monastery Melody
27. I Have Thee as a Fountain (from the Paraklesis Canon)-Nazo Zakkak
28. We Have No Other Help-Cecil A. Bailey
29. O Vineyard, Fair and New-Traditional Georgian Hymn (English adaptation by B. Sheehan)
30. We Learn From the Angel-Archpriest Paul Harrilchak (arr. Galician Carol)

—Steven Ritter