Give Now

Harmonia Early Music

Magnificat anima mea

This week, a sampling of one of the most famous texts from the Christian church service--the Magnificat. Also, a new release by English viol consort Concordia.

Play Episode (Real Audio)
parchment with women and words

Photo: Anonymous

A detail from an image of the visitation and the beginning of the canticle, "Magnificat anima mea" (Book of Hours, Duc de Berry).

Magnificat anima mea Dominum…“My soul doth magnify the Lord.”  And so begins the Magnificat, taken directly out of the Gospel of Luke.  The original language of the Magnificat as found in the New Testament was Greek, although it is most commonly found set in Latin.  Yet in the 16th Century it could also be set in English by composers such as William Byrd.  Byrd’s Magnificat is found on the 1987 release by The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Stephen Cleobury, director.

The story surrounding the Magnificat holds a special place in the Bible.  Shortly after the Virgin Mary is told by an angel that she is to have God’s son, she visits her cousin Elizabeth who is also pregnant.  When Elizabeth feels a stirring in her womb, Mary is inspired to sing what has come to be known as the Magnificat.

If you were to take a quick survey of the most popular Magnificat settings you would undoubtedly run into one by Claudio Monteverdi from his Vespers of 1610.  Yet in Germany, a particular setting by Heinrich Schütz gives our Claudio a serious run for his money.  This one is perhaps this most famous of any German composer until J.S. Bach.  On their 1999 release, Christmas Vespers, the Gabrieli Consort and Players (directed by Paul McCreesh) perform Schütz’ setting.

Out of the hundreds of Magnificats from the Renaissance and Baroque eras we find that a few of the more interesting settings weren’t located in England, Germany, or Italy.  One has to cross the Atlantic over to Mexico to get a taste of what the Spanish had imported to the colonies during the 17th century.

New World composer Francisco López Capillas created some of the finest of these works.  As a native of Mexico and chapel master in Mexico City, his approach is of particular importance.  A Magnificat composed by Capillas is recorded by Ex Cathedra (Jeffrey Skidmore, dir.) on the 2005 Hyperion release, Moon, Sun & All Things.

In France, we find Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Louis XIV’s own church composer, who set a number of Magnficats, one of which is performed by Les Pages & Les Chantres of the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles under the direction of Olivier Schneebeli (Vêpres pour Saint Louis, Alpha Records, 2004).

Czech composer Jan Dismas Zelenka was a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s who had one of the best jobs–court musician and composer in Dresden.  One of his Magnificats was recorded in 1999 by the Bach Collegium Japan (directed by Masaaki Suzuki).

Our new release of the week features the viol consort Concordia directed by Mark Levy.  The ensemble is joined by soprano Angharad Gruffydd Jones and harpsichordist Gary Cooper in a performance of music by Dowland, Sabbatini, Lawes, Locke, Jenkins, and others.

Here’s a video of baritone Christopher Maltman and Concentus Musicus Wien performing the aria “Quia fecit” from J.S. Bach’s Magnificat:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZEUjC53upA

Music Heard On This Episode

Johann Kuhnau : Magnificat in C major: Sicut locutus est
Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki, dir. — Magnificat (BIS, 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Johann Kuhnau : Magnificat in C major: Sicut locutus est
Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki, dir. — Magnificat (BIS, 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Johann Kuhnau: Magnificant in C major: Gloria Patri
Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki, dir. — Magnificat (BIS, 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Johann Kuhnau: Magnificat in C major: Sicut erat in pricipio
Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki, dir. — Magnificat (BIS, 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
William Byrd: Magnificat: My soul doth magnify
The Choir of King's College, Cambridge, Stephen Cleobury, dir. — The Great Service (EMI, 1987)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Heinrich Schütz: Magnificat, SWV 468: Magnificat anima mea-Et exultavit-Quia respexit
Gabrieli Consort and Players, Paul McCreesh, dir. — Christmas Vespers (Archiv, 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Heinrich Schütz: Magnificat, SWV 468: Quia fecit mihi magna-Et misericordia-Fecit potentiam-Deposuit potentes
Gabrieli Consort and Players, Paul McCreesh, dir. — Christmas Vespers (Archiv, 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Heinrich Schütz: Magnificat, SWV 468: Esurientes implevit bonis-Suscepit Israel-Sicut locutus est
Gabrieli Consort and Players, Paul McCreesh, dir. — Christmas Vespers (Archiv, 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Heinrich Schütz: Magnificat, SWV 468: Gloria Patri, et Filio-Sicut erat in pricipio
Gabrieli Consort and Players, Paul McCreesh, dir. — Christmas Vespers (Archiv, 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Francisco López Capillas: Magnificat
Ex Cathedra, Jeffery Skidmore, dir. — Moon, sun & all things (Hyperion, 2005)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Magnificat, H.76
Les Pages & Les Chantres--Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, Oliver Schneebeli, dir. — Vêpres pour Saint Louis (Alpha, 2004)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Jan Dismas Zelenka: Magnificat in D major: Magnificat anima mea Dominum
Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki, dir. — Magnificat (BIS, 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Jan Dismas Zelenka: Magnificat in D major: Suscepit Israel
Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki, dir. — Magnificat (BIS, 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Jan Dismas Zelenka: Magnificat in D major: Amen
Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki, dir. — Magnificat (BIS, 1999)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Anonymous: Tickle my toe
Concordia, Mark Levy, dir. — Amorous in Music: William Cavendish in Antwerp (Etcetera, 2006)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

View all posts by this author »

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Harmonia Early Music:

More Subscription Options

Follow Us

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Harmonia Early Music

About The Hosts

Search Harmonia Early Music

where to hear harmonia