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Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

Systematic Discussions of Bachs Other Vocal Works

Magnificat in D major BWV 243

 

 

Discussions in the Week of May 23, 2004

Neil Halliday
wrote (May 23, 2004):
Imagery in the Magnificat. (was Religious affiliation)

Nanraelle wrote: "the Magnificat is written mainly in two-four or four-four time, UNTIL the beginning of the last movement, when it goes into three-four (or maybe not... perhaps I'm thinking of triplets."
While I agree that the point being made - that the triplets in the the 'Gloria' (of the Magnificat) represent a musical expression of the holy trinity - is a good one (and something I had not thought of), I would point out that there are too many movements in triple time to claim a unique status for the Gloria in this regard (eg, the first two movements, 3/4 and 3/8 respectively; Et misericordia, 12/8; Deposuit potentes (tenor aria) 3/4; Susceptit Israel, 3/4.)

Neil Halliday wrote (May 23, 2004):
"I would point out that there are too many movements in triple time to claim a unique status for the Gloria in this regard".
Actually, on further consideration, I suppose the Gloria is unique (in BWV 243), in that it is written in triplets (albeit in a context of 4/4 time), so there is no need, in any case, to comment on the occurance of "triple time" in the other movements, in order to make the point about the allusion to the holy trinity in the Gloria.

Nanraella wrote (May 24, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] Yeah, I realized that afterwards, and must ammend by saying that all the CHORUSES are in four-four or two-four time. Sorry about that!

Neil Halliday wrote (May 24, 2004):
BWV 243: Magnificat

I have three recordings: Auberson (on LP), Münchiger (1968), and Gardiner (1984).

With the Auberson we have a good example of a pleasing, 'sweet' alto of the old school, in the 'Esurientes' aria, but unfortunately she is not named on the LP (unless it's the mezzo-soprano Nedda Casei). In any case, with the lovely flutes and vivid pizzicato from the continuo, it's a pleasing performance. (But the engineering on much of the rest of the LP is not ideal, and the choir - Vienna State Opera - has too much vibrato).

In contrast, for the 'Esurientes' aria, Watts, with Munchinger, lacks the desirable 'sweetness' which is required in Bach's alto arias.

Otherwise, for the rest of the Magnificat, Münchinger's recording is a good one; despite some (undesirable) vibrato from the choir (Vienna Academy Choir), the parts are clear in most movements, and the balance between vocalists and instrumentalists is fine.

The outstanding movement is the 'Et misericordia'; a more sweetly sensuous rendition than this would be hard to imagine. The muted upper strings, with flutes playing col' parte with the violins, and the (unique?) pizzicato from the double bass (but not the cellos; I note that this pizzicato is not marked in the BGA score), on these modern instruments, produces stunningly beautiful music that sounds like it could have been written yesterday. (Watts (A) and Krenn (T) match well, but in any case the instruments steal the limelight).

With Gardiner, the outstanding movement is the the first part of the 'Gloria Patri'; a moderate tempo, and very clean choral singing (no vibrato), vividly realises masses of choral sound swirling upwards on those triplets of notes (mentioned yesterday). It's an incredibly modern choral effect from Bach, in my estimation. Gardiner closes this section with surprisingly powerful and exciting period trumpets and drums, before launching into the final restatement of the music from the opening movement - at a breakneck speed.

Fast tempos in several of the movements are, in fact, for me the main drawback of Gardiner's recording.

[Gardiner broke the speed record in 1984 (c.25 mins.), only to be surpassed recently by McCreesh (c.23 mins.); this latter recording is generally criticised on this account in the internet reviews I have seen. Munchinger and Auberson come in at c. 30 mins. Most recent recordings are around 27-28 mins].

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (May 25, 2004):
Magnificat sample Fecit potentiam

Check out my contribution to the site (music example section). Fecit potentiam (Magnificat) is a difficult piece to sing (as difficult as the most difficult motets, like Singet), but I think we (Laurenscantorij) did a nice job. I have the Herreweghe performance, and when listening to Fecit I humbly think that we are slightly more powerful (if only our recording quality would be better...). For tenors the first bars ezpecially are "breath-taking".

Jason Marmaras wrote (May 25, 2004):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] Ah, Arjen!
Next to Aryeh, always to bring our minds back to music.

My thanks,


Let us talk music

Arjen van Gijssel
wrote (May 26, 2004):
Anyone fancy talking about music again?

Wasn't it the Maginificat that we were supposed to discuss these weeks?

Who has listened to performances apart from Neil?
Who has listened to the sample I posted?
Who agrees with me that Herreweghes performance of the Magnificat is not the best he ever did (i.e. up to his superb regular standard, through lack of rigour and power)?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 26, 2004):
Arjen van Gijssel wrote: < Who agrees with me that Herreweghes performance of the Magnificat is not the best he ever did (i.e. up to his superb regular standard, through lack of rigour and power)? >
Which Herreweghe? His recent recording of the Eb Magnificat struck me as being more dynamic and exuberant than his earlier recording of the D major version.

Despite some less than convincing aspects, I still find the McCreesh Magnificat has some splendid things in it, not least the large organ continuo, and it certainly doesn't lack exuberance.

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (May 27, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] I meant the D major version. So, I must get the Eb recording? I gather that the tempi in McCreesh are fast?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 27, 2004):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] Well I prefer it (as a performance). Many of McCreesh's tempi are very fast. Which is fine with me....

Pierce Drew wrote (May 27, 2004):
Arjen van Gijssel wrote: < Who agrees with me that Herreweghes performance of the Magnificat is not the best he ever did (i.e. up to his superb regular standard, through lack of rigour and power)? >
Which one? The first (coupled with "Ein Feste Burg") or the second (recently released with other Leipzig Christmas cantatas)?

Nanraella wrote (May 27, 2004):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] I'm all for talking music. If everyone was willing just to drop the subjects we've been debating completely, that's just fine. But as long as someone is carrying on with the denial of God and objective truth, my very essence compels me to continue arguing.

I haven't listened to the performance, sorry. I haven't had much time for that. But is there any opinion on Ian Bostridge's performance under Stephen Cleobury? Maybe not the most powerful thing ever done, but still, its intensity and expression were, to me, beyond belief. I love how he trembles on "de sedes" -- the seats crumbling. IMHO, his is the most brilliant tenor voice this side of the moon.

Charles Francis wrote (May 27, 2004):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] I'm rather partial to the Hogwood/Preston Eb recording, but then its the only one I know. With regard to the version in D, I postively dislike the McCreesh, which I find hurried and breathless; but for OVPP, I do like Parrott.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 27, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] It is hurried and breathless at times, but has a certain elan, to my mind (although in terms of vocal balance and blend it can be a bit rough and ready); great organ though! The Parrott is excellent, I agree.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 27, 2004):
Nanraella wrote: < But is there any opinion on Ian Bostridge's performance under Stephen Cleobury? Maybe not the most powerful thing ever done, but still, its intensity and expression were, to me, beyond belief. I love how he trembles on "de sedes" -- the seats crumbling. IMHO, his is the most brilliant tenor voice this side of the moon. >
Well, there are rather more people than just Ian Bostridge involved in the CleoburyMagnificat recording (like three other soloists, the Academy of Ancient Music and about 30 singers in the choir!). It's a rather old-fashioned performance, to my mind, very English, a bit too well-upholstered and tubby and a bit lacking in exuberance. But the Kings' choir makes a lovely, if comfortable, sound even if it is, again, rather English. Stephen Cleobury's made many better recordings than this, in my opinion.

John Reese wrote (May 27, 2004):
Why are my recordings all so old? (Rhetorical question. Probably because I bought them back in high school and I'm too much of a cheapskate to buy new ones.)

My recording of the Magnificat in D is by the Vienna Opera and Chorus, Felix Prohaska conducting (1957). I like the performance, except that it sounds like it was recorded inside a toilet bowl.

[off-topic messages under this title were omitted]


Laurenscantorij - Magnificat

Jason Marmaras
wrote (May 27, 2004):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] I asked you before, and I believe you didn't answer (or I missed your answer): What orchestra do you perform with?
It must be small, I can clearly hear the strings' attacks et c., and I like that very much.\

Of the 'Fecit Potentiam', I have not made up my mind yet, sorry :(
(I wish you had better recording equipment/mixing though...)

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (May 27, 2004):
[To Jason Maarmaras] Normally we perform with the LaurensBachOrchestra, i.e. our own ensemble. Occasionally we invite other ensembles, like Concerto d'Amsterdam. I do not know what is small or big. My perception is that normal baroque formats are chosen. The LaurensBachOrchestra plays on modern instruments, Concerto d'Amsterdam I believe is historical.

As for Fecit: make up your mind! It shouldn't be that difficult.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (May 27, 2004):
< As for Fecit: make up your mind! It shouldn't be that difficult. >
Sorry for being a bit ignorant, but I must have missed where I can get the sample.

I've already mentioned that I was greatly impressed by the performance at the Royal Wedding, so hopefully I can expect much.

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (May 27, 2004):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Here's the link: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/MusEx/BWV243-FecitPotentiam-Laurenscantorij.mp3

Charles Francis wrote (May 27, 2004):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] Very nice pulse, singing, strings, organ and notably timpani! Some weakness with the trumpet playing though (historically informed, I guess). Maybe you guys have released some Bach CDs?

[off-topic messages under this title were omitted]


Magnificat - BWV243 - "Quia respexit" - Which Soprano?

Ehud Shiloni
wrote (May 29, 2004):
"Quia respexit" is a lovely, naturally flowing aria for soprano. It has no virtuoso pyrotechnics for the singer, but to my ears it is one of Bach's special arias which let out the best in the soprano voice.

My question to all of you : What's your favorite version? Who is the soprano singer you like best in this aria?

Let's hear some opinions.

Smoovus wrote (May 29, 2004):
[To Ehud Shiloni] I really love the magnificat (i have the parrott OVPP recording) but that aria has never really grabbed me. I know Im in for some ciriticism for that fact, but I welcome it. tear me a new asshole, boys! what specifically should i be listening for?

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 29, 2004):
[To Smoovus] I can think of more delicate ways of handling the situation than that, not to mention ones more fit for public consumption...

The only recording I possess is one that does not even pretend to be HIP, much less HP. Probably Lucia Popp singing. I have heard the Philadelphia Singers do the Magnificat live (ages ago), very nicely though and, for a modern rendition, tasteful. Then there was an amateur performance of it in which I played my violin (a friend needed a sub...)

The only other rendition I know is my own. Unfortunately, I don't have a recording of our performance. We came up with a solution that is probably HIP. The organ at our disposal is tuned to A442, not much we can do about that, so Baroque wind instruments are right out. Dorota managed to lay her hands on a modern oboe d'amore (alas, I think she will have to return it, now that she is graduating from Music Academy...).

Our convention is that everyone performs (as far as possible anyway) standing up, in a sort of half circle, and I have the continuo instruments on my left and 'solo' instrument(s) on my right. So we treat the voice as an instrument.

Now as far as the vocal line is concerned, we decided to treat it as if I was doing a Scripture reading at church (as opposed to more theatrically) - and indeed, it is a citation from Scripture, so why not?

The first half - up to the cadence in D on 'ancillae suae' - we selected a darker tone color for the soprano line, probably placed a bit too 'modern' for some people's taste, but treating vibrato in an ornamental rather than modern manner.

For the second half, we brightened up the soprano line a bit, not quite to that 'boy soprano' type thing you find in some quarters, where you have to smile all the time to get the sound to come out that way. I can't do that really convincingly anyway because even when I do brighten up, there's always that 'dark' note somewhere in the background. Sort of dark and bright simultaneously. And to me that's more interesting, so I am not particularly anxious to change it.

Maybe I ought to grab my ensemble and get that gentleman at church to bring his CD recorder? Or heck, sometime when I determine that there aren't any higher-priority things to invest my money in, buy one myself?

Meantime, I am trying to figure out what to do about the fact that our recent recording was done in such a way that when I go into Windows Explorer, I just see little *.wma icons which must be shortcuts to the material, given the size of the files, and I can't actually access the music file itself directly to, for example, send it to Dad or post it here. Any ideas how to proceed?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 30, 2004):
[To Smoovus] There's no reason for anyone to criticise you because an aria doesn't grab you. You're not at fault and Bach isn't at fault either. Anyone is at liberty to find interesting what they find interesting and find uninteresting what they find uninteristing. No-one should ever feel they ought to like something.

Barry Murray wrote (May 30, 2004):
[To Ehud Shiloni] The only recording I have of BWV 243 is with Collegium Musicum 90 on Chandos. The Quia Respexit aria is beautifully sung by Emma Kirkby. I haven't heard any other versions, but I think you'd have to go a long way to find a better soprano!

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 30, 2004):
[To Ehud Shiloni] I find Barbara Schlick hard to resist in anything and her performance for Herreweghe is probably the one I enjoy most. Greta de Reyghere also givrs a beautifully intimate performance for Kuijken. (One does not hear so much of her these days. Is she still around, I wonder?)

Jason Marmaras wrote (May 30, 2004):
[To Ehud Shiloni] I only have the Naxos recording; I like the 2nd soprano better than the 1st one, but not overmuch - and I don't like her ; and, again, I'm an original-instrument fan... (by the way, any opinions on the bass in that recording?)

Smoovus wrote (May 31, 2004):
< There's no reason for anyone to criticise you because an aria doesn't grab you. You're not at fault and Bach isn't at fault either. Anyone is at liberty to find interesting what they find interesting and find uninteresting what they find uninteristing. No-one should ever feel they ought to like something. >
N
o, I am most definitely at fault. all sound is beautiful, it is only my limitations that prevent it from being perceived as such. i was hoping that if someone explained to me in careful detail what about the aria was enjoyable to them, maybe i could grow to love it. Ehud said that it "lets out the best in the soprano voice." what does that mean exactly? what are some other examples of arias that let out the best in the soprano voice? what about some arias that dont let out the best in the soprano voice at all?or, if anyone else has a different perspective to offer, Id be interesting in hearing that as well. i only framed the question in confrontational terms--asshole tearing and such--because that sort of thing seems to motivate list members to respond more than anything else.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 31, 2004):
[To Smmovus] This sounds like an advertiser's philosophy - nothing like appealing to our baser instincts :-)

Smoovus wrote (May 31, 2004):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] Hats off gentlemen, cara has discovered a secret weapon in our arsenal of exchanges. but meanwhile the advertisers will go off satisfied, as they were being indoctrinated in a relaxed ambience. who, then, is the asshole?

John Reese wrote (May 31, 2004):
[To Smoovus] I like it because it conveys the idea of "humility" so well, with its unexpected downward skips of, among other things, an augmented second (would that be considered a skip or a step?), and a major sixth.

Speaking of which, its funny how the context of an interval can totally change the way it is heard. A major sixth is usually not thought of as an "emotion-charged" interval, but it sounds that way when it is the second scale degree in a minor key dropping down to the fourth scale degree below it (between the ninth and tenth notes of the oboe part).

Ehud Shiloni wrote (May 31, 2004):
Smoovus asked: < Ehud said that it "lets out the best in the soprano voice." what does that mean exactly? >
You did put me on the spot, because I have zero musical knowledge tosupport what is a very personal reaction to the music, on a purely emotional level. I cannot go into an "augmented second" or a "major sixth" as John did, simply because it's all "chinese" to me [please: no "politically correct" diversion on the "ethnyc" reference!], but I can say that on certain arias of a contemplative nature I sense that the singer is exposed and volnurable, causing me - the listener - to feel as being swept along. The two great passion arias have such characteristics - "Zerfliesse, mein Herze" [SJP] and "Aus Liebe" [SMP], although, of course, these two convey tragedy and sorrow which do not apply here.Perhaps Cara can chip in and share with us some more attributes from the singer's perspective.

Anyway, I would like to share my opinions on the 13 versions in my collection, and here they are, ranked overall on a five "star" system. My opinions were formed based primarily on the singing, but were influenced by the other factors as well - oboe, balnce, support, etc:

Three "stars":
1. Kimberly McCord [McCreesh, 2000]
2. Lynda Russel [Christophers, 1991]
3. Antonella Balducci [Fasolis, 1994]

Four "stars":
4. Lisa Larsson [Koopman,1998]
5. Greta de Reyghere [Kuijken, 1988]
6. Elly Ameling [Munchinger, 1968]
7. Barbara Bonney [Schreier, 1994]
8. Nancy Argenta [Gardiner, 1983]
9. Evelyn Tubb [Parrot, 1989]
10. Barbara Schlick [Herreweghe, 1990]

Five "stars":
11. Arlene Auger [Rilling, 1979]
12. Miah Persson [Suzuki, 1998]

Five "stars" plus an extra "laurel" for the most outstanding performance:
13. Emma Kirkby [Hickox, 1990]

I came across several people who told me that they discovered "early music" and became captivated, simply by happening on an Emma Kirkby performance back in the 80's. When I listen to "The divine miss Emma" singing this aria, still at the pime of her voice, I can understand precisely what those people have experienced. Her voice radiates a "built-in" exuberance, unlike any of the other top singers on the list above. Unique, no doubt, and highly satisfying for me, the listener.

List-member Barry Murray says he likes the Kirkby version, as I did after a lengthy comparison.

Let's hear some more preferences - only five or six members came forward with a selection, but surely most of you guys have at least one recording of BWV243, or don't you?

Neil Halliday wrote (June 1, 2004):
[To Ehud Shiloni] I have heard the following sopranos in this aria (nothing like Ehud's vast collection):

1. Maria Stader/Auberson (on LP).
2. Elly Ameling/Munchinger.
3. Nancy Argenta/Gardiner.
4. Anna Crookes/Ward - the singer in the Naxos internet recording, availble at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV243-Mus.htm

I judge them all to be pleasing, but I am particularly attracted to Stader's voice, which, though it uses vibrato, seems to be a genuinely sweet soprano voice.

I would like to hear Kirkby/Hickox.

Someone asked about the continuo for this aria (with Crookes/Ward), in the Naxos recording. My impression is it's too stark/unsubtle - lacks the 'soft' edge which I find pleasing in other performances (both HIP and non-HIP). Note that this modern instrument ensemble is employing HIP principles - smaller forces, lighter articulation, etc.

[You can also listen to their performance of BWV 82, from the above link. Apart from a not very appealing bass voice, the frustratingly short, quiet accompaniment in the 1st recitative had me longing for the dramatic 'cathedral' organ accompaniment in the Hans Hotter recording].

OTOH, in the 'Fecit potentiam', the modern trumpet on this Naxos recording clearly demonstrates the effortless brilliance and accuracy, which is lacking in the baroque trumpet part with Laurenscantorij.

Today I attended a concert given by the pricipal trumpeter of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra; he had a collection of trumpets with him, and during a talk, gave a demostration of the baroque trumpet, an instrument he jocularly referred to as 'highly dangerous'. However, he did say he liked the sound of it when mastered by period specialist players (which he is not). My question would be, just how many period players are there that can produce results as pleasing as those routinely heard from competent modern trumpet players?

To Smoovus, and his difficulty with the "Quia respexit" aria, I suggest concentrating on the oboe part. (It's especially sorrowful and accepting - humble - in Munchinger's recording). Oboe, adagio, minor key - always attractive in Bach, don't you think? (And John gave some good technical reasons for the aria's attractiveness).

Johan van Veen wrote (June 1, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < Greta de Reyghere also givrs a beautifully intimate performance for Kuijken. (One does not hear so much of her these days. Is she still around, I wonder?) >
Yes, she definitely is. Only a couple of weeks ago I heard a live recording on Belgian radio with Ms De Reyghere singing Bach with Il Fondamento (BWV 199, among others).


BWV 243

Jason Marmaras
wrote (May 28, 2004):
Indeed, comparison made my judgement easier:
[Comparing with Naxos and the Schola Cantorum]
The Laurenscantorij seem to have much more spirit, to be feeling the music and words to their bones; the strings are much clearer, in general. I have to say I miss the male voices, especially the basses; it's probably the recording, as, from what is heard, I would think Of the pulse, I love the beginning!

The general feeling is that of the intense look in the conductor's eyes and the choir looking at him, or a %*&4 musical choir on its own - do you have a conductor, really?


Magnificats BWV 243 & BWV 243a: Details
Recordings: Until 1960 | 1961-1970 | 1971-1980 | 1981-1990 | 1991-2000 | From 2001 | BWV243a | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Systematic Discussions:
BWV 243 | BWV 243a
Individual Recordings:
BWV 243 - Harnoncourt | BWV 243a - Hengelbrock | BWV 243 McCreesh | BWV 243 - Rifkin | BWV 243 - Suzuki | BWV 243a - Herreweghe

Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

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Last update: June 6, 2004 23:18:37