The Orthodox Church alone has kept so far the ancient Christian conception that the liturgical music should be only vocal. Way back in the IV c. St. Jerome has said that a Christian maiden should have an aversion for the heathen instruments and that it is not even befitting her to know the difference between a lyre and flute.
The Orthodox liturgical musical creative work subdued to strict canons filled up great historical epochs. One of them belongs to the Byzantine music and another, one undisputably to the Russian music, which has already had a millennial of development. In earlier times the Greeks, the Bulgarians and the Serbs gave their contribution too. The Slavonic church music sounding in the Bulgarian language up to this day is established in late, so called “Russian wording”. The Russian church music having derived from the comparatively simple cantilena and recitative patterns, flourished exuberantly in polyphonic and choir forms. To the great Russian composer Dmitri Bortnyanski (1751—1825) belong the highest forms of that style. In his youth he had been a singer in the famous court a cappela choir and subsequently its leader. His “Slava vo vishnih Bogou” (“Gloria in excelsis Deo”) is notable
for its energetic character, harmoniousness and contrast in its inner development.
“Outoli bolezni” ( “Commitiga mala…”) is the work of another great Russian composer in the field of church music — Alexander Arhangelski (1846—1924) one of the first who popularized it in the Western world. The very text of the chant imposes elegiac tone and deep experiencing in the music. “Pokayaniya” (“Poenitentiae”) – belongs to the celebrated Ukrainian composer Artemiy Vedet (1767—1806). Passionate, exciting music and, at places, tragic pathos, fits in the character of the text.
«Dostoyno est» (“Dignum est”) is really an excellent example of Bortnyanski’s inspiration and mastery. He is always capable of sensing something new in the ancient liturgical poetry. “Otche nash” (“Pater noster”) — Doubinski. This chant has a soloist-tenor and characteristic recitative structure.
“Hvalite imya Oospodne” (“Laudate nomen Domini”) is by Dobri Hristov (1875—1941) a notable Bulgarian composer, a student of Dvorak and author of many works mainly of vocal genre. He is the most significant representative of the Bulgarian church music of more recent times. The chant is for soloists tenor and baritone with choir, with a responsive singing construction. Considering its beauty and inspiration the chant stands very high and is one of the best of its kind included in the enumerated liturgical chants.
“Herouvimska pessen” (“Hymnus heruvimicus”)G. Luvovski, is one of the main parts of the orthodox liturgy. It is closely related to the conception of the invincible divine angelic power. Here too, as in many other cases, the song is in smooth extensive style. ,,Tebe poem” (“Te cantamus”) is by the Russian composer Oavriil Lomakin (1812—1885). It is a slow, calm chant; it sounds warm and meditative.
«Blazhen Mouzl» (“Beatus vir…”) by Lyubimov (Ps. I) It is one of the most interesting chants on the record as regards to its spirit and construction. The invocation of the bass-solo to the choir, the fervent and gloomy character of the narration, the unison in “hallelujah” raise waves of strong spontaneous experience.
The liturgical music of the Slavonic orthodox East has its great, specifically historic and cultural — esthetic significance.