Theta Combinations in the Stichera of the Transfiguration

Case Study of the 10-13th Century Greek and Russian Manuscripts


  • Ekaterina Pletneva Saint Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory, Russian Federation
  • Nadezhda Shchepkina A.P. Borodin Children's Art School, Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation


theta, theta combinations, stichera, Transfiguration, Greek manuscripts, Russian manuscripts, Chartres, Coislin, Middle Byzantine notation, early Znamenny notations, Znamenny


Many stichera of the twelve Major Feasts contain complex notational fragments, which are generally referred to as melismatic. The main criterion for melismaticity in notation is the theta symbol. The combination of several consistent thetas is a rare and noteworthy phenomenon, on account of which fragments of a very particular sacred character are created in chants. The article attempts to study this theta combination in the oldest Greek and Russian manuscripts of the 10th-13th centuries on the basis of the stichera of the Feast of the Transfiguration. It was discovered that there exist only five theta combinations in five chants defining the main topoi - Sound and Light.

A hypothetical reconstruction of the melos of the theta combination of the 10-11th centuries was performed on the basis of the records of the Middle Byzantine notation of the 12-13th centuries, where thetas are transntated in analytical notation. The conclusion are drawn that the beginning of a theta combination is an event and can be emphasized by a transition to another mode or by a registral contrast. In each studied theta combination, the second theta complex appears to be either musically brighter, or more prolonged, or contains a metabola (modulation).

Peer-reviewed Articles



How to Cite

Pletneva, Ekaterina, and Nadezhda Shchepkina. 2022. “Theta Combinations in the Stichera of the Transfiguration: Case Study of the 10-13th Century Greek and Russian Manuscripts”. Journal of the International Society for Orthodox Music 6 (1):107-23.