Bach Magnifcat

Magnificat in E-flat Major

BWV 243a

Composed in Leipzig, 1728-1731. First performed in Leipzig on either July 2nd or Christmas Day - December 25th, 1723. 

Note: This work is not to be confused with Bach's Magnificat in D Major (BWV 243) which is a revision of BWV 243a.

This is my favorite performance of this piece! It features a stunning array of Baroque soloists such as David Thomas (bass), Paul Elliott (tenor), and the amazing and incomparable virtuoso soprano Dame Emma Kirkby when her voice was in its prime! The flashy, kaleidoscopic Magnificat remains one of Bach's most popular works. Simon Preston directs a performance full of energy and features a crisp and brilliant interpretation, using period instruments, and an all boys choir just as Bach would have used. This is a wonderful example of the very best of historically informed performance (HIP) practice. The crackerjack choir and orchestra sail through the trickiest passages at high speed without sounding at all rushed or uncomfortable. The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral Oxford is just superb, fresh voices with the proper amount of balance and complete technical assurance; their performance make this difficult peace sound very easy. 

The Magnificat in E-flat major, BWV 243a, also BWV 243.1, by Johann Sebastian Bach is a musical setting of the Latin text of the Magnificat, Mary's canticle from the Gospel of Luke. It was composed in 1723 and is in twelve movements, scored for five vocal parts (two sopranos, alto, tenor and bass) and a Baroque orchestra of trumpets, timpani, oboes, strings and basso continuo including bassoon. Bach revised the work some ten years later, transposing it from E-flat major to D major, and creating the version mostly performed today, BWV 243.

The work was first performed in Leipzig in 1723. In May that year Bach assumed his position as Thomaskantor and embarked on an ambitious series of compositions. The Magnificat was sung at vesper services on feast days, and, as suggested by recent research, Bach's setting may have been written for a performance on 2 July, celebrating the Marian feast of the Visitation. For a Christmas celebration the same or a later year, he performed it at the Nikolaikirche with the insertion of four seasonal movements.

As a regular part of vespers, the canticle Magnificat was often set to music for liturgical use. Bach, as some of his contemporaries, devotes individual expression to every verse of the canticle, one even split in two for a dramatic effect. In a carefully designed structure, four choral movements are evenly distributed (1, 4, 7, 11). They frame sets of two or three movements sung by one to three voices, with individual instrumental colour. The work is concluded by a choral doxology (12), which ends in a recapitulation of the beginning on the text "as it was in the beginning". In Bach's Leipzig period, Magnificat is the first major work on a Latin text and for five vocal parts. - Wikipedia

Choir of Christ Church Cathedral Oxford
The Academy of Ancient Music - conducted by Simon Preston

Judith Nelson - Soprano
Emma Kirkby - Soprano
Carolyn Watkinson - Alto
Paul Elliott -
David Thomas - Bass

Recorded in 1978
at St Jude's, Hampstead, London, England.

Please enjoy the performance!


00:00 1. Chorus
Magnificat anima mea Dominum
03:15 2. Aria (Soprano 2)
Et exsultavit spiritus meus
05:29 2a. Chorus
Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her
07:51 3. Aria (Soprano 1)
Quia respexit humilitatem
10:32 4. Chorus
Omnes generationes
11:58 5. Aria (Bass)
Quia fecit mihi magna
14:02 5a. Chorus
Freut euch und jubiliert
15:29 6. Aria (Alto, Tenor)
Et misericordia a progenie
19:17 7. Chorus
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo
21:24 7a. Chorus
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
22:32 8. Aria (Tenor)
Deposuit potentes de sede
24:30 9. Aria (Alto)
Esurientes implevit bonis
27:26 9a. Aria (Soprano 1, Bass)
Virga Jesse floruit
30:21 10. Aria (Soprano 1, Soprano 2, Alto)
Suscepit Israel puerum suum
32:08 11. Chorus
Sicut locutus est ad Patres nostros
33:36 12a. Chorus
Gloria Patri, gloria Filio
34:40 12b. Chorus
Sicut erat in principio

Biblical quotations in green font, chorales in purple


Chorus [S, S, A, T, B]

Tromba I-III, Timpani, Flauto traverso I/II, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

Magnificat anima mea Dominum.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.


Aria [Soprano II]

Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo
and my spirit has exulted in God my saviour.



Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her,
From heaven above to earth I come
Ich bring euch gute neue Mär;
To hear good news to ev'ry home;
Der guten Mär bring ich so viel,
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Davon ich sing'n und sagen will.
Whereov I now will say and sing:



Aria [Soprano I]

Oboe d'amore I, Continuo

Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae;
because he has regarded the lowly state of his slavegirl;
ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent
for look! from now on [they]will say that I am blessed


Chorus [S, S, A, T, B]

Flauto traverso I/II, Oboe d'amore I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

Omnes generationes.
every generation.


Aria [Bass]


Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen eius.
because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.





Freut euch und jubiliert;
Rejoice and exult;
Zu Bethlehem gefunden wird
In Bethlehem we found
Das herzeliebe Jesulein,
Dear little Jesus
Das soll euer Freud und Wonne sein.

Which will bring you joy and happiness.


Aria (Duet) [Alto, Tenor]

Flauto traverso I e Violino I all' unisono, Flauto traverso II e Violino II all' unisono, Viola, Continuo

Et misericordia a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.
and his mercy [continues ] from generation to generation for those who fear him.


Chorus [S, S, A, T, B]

Tromba I-III, Timpani, Flauto traverso I/II, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

Fecit potentiam in brachio suo, dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
He has made known the power of his arm, scattered those who are arrogant in the thoughts of their heart.


Aria [Tenor]

Violini all' unisono, Continuo

Deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles.
He has put down the mighty from their seats [of power] and raised up those who are lowly.


Aria [Alto]

Flauto traverso I/II, Continuo

Esurientes implevit bonis et divites dimisit inanes.
The hungry he has filled with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.


Aria (Terzetto) [Sopranos I and II, Alto]

Oboe I/II all' unisono, Organo e Violoncelli senza, Violone e Bassoni

Suscepit Israel puerum suum recordatus misericordiae suae.
He has taken under his protection Israel his boy, and remembered his mercy.


Chorus [S, S, A, T, B]


Sicut locutus est ad Patres nostros,
in accordance with what he said to our fathers,
Abraham et semini eius in saecula.
to Abraham and to his seed for ever.


Chorus [S, S, A, T, B]

Tromba I-III, Timpani, Flauto traverso I/II, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Organo e Continuo

Gloria Patri, gloria Filio,
Glory to the Father, glory to the Son
gloria et Spiritui Sancto!
glory also to the Holy Spirit!
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper
As it was in the beginning and [is] now and always
et in saecula saeculorum.
and throughout ages of ages.

Many translations of this text use familiar versions based on translations of the Greek text of Luke 1: 46-55. This translation may seem different because it is intended to offer help to those who wish to follow the Latin and is therefore literal in some places and elsewhere expansive in making explicit the implications of some words

English Translation by Francis Browne (September 2006)


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