For anyone vaguely acquainted with music for the Orthodox liturgy – perhaps through the odd Russian anthem smuggled into Sunday worship – but curious to know more, this collection offers an alluring introduction. Eleven carefully chosen pieces display the breadth and depth of the repertoire in a way that will give no less satisfaction to those who know it on more intimate terms. The programme ranges from the imported Italian Baroque of Galuppi and Sarti to the thing itself: choral music by Dmitri Bortniansky (1751-1825), plus that of his contemporary Artemy Vedel and 17th-century pioneers of the Euro-Slavic liturgical style, Nikolai Diletsky and Vasily Titov.
And there are other plaudits. Tchaikovsky himself regarded the setting of the Cherubic Hymn recorded here as Bortnyansky’s finest setting (he wrote nine altogether). The manner in which the Estonians enrich its Mozartian grace and euphony with their own velvet timbre would no doubt have given him much pleasure. By contrast, the chamber-like vocal textures of another of his favourites, the Choral Concerto No. 32, highlight the choir’s individual talents, a most supple musical instrument as directed by Hillier, and full of brooding Slavic soulfulness in the anonymous devotional setting of ‘O Most Holy Maiden Mary’. Nicholas Williams