Magnificat BWV 243
General Discussions - Part 1
MagnificatMargarita Pollini wrote (April 22, 1998):
(To Stefan) I have two recordings of the Magnificat. One is conducted by Neville Marriner, with Barbara Hendricks, Ann Murray, Jean Rigby, Uwe Heilmann, Jorma Hynnien, and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. It's not too bad, and includes also the "Gloria" from Vivaldi. (EMI). The other one is the Gardiner's, with the Monteverdi Choir, The English baroque Soloists and his current and bored soloists (Kwella, Argenta, Chance...). It's completelly inexpresive, the tempos are too fast, and there is a wonderful musical disaster at the end of the "Sicut erat in principio" with the basses of the choir!
If I should reccomend a recording to you, that will be the Rilling's. I think he is the best conductor of our time for Bach. I was present in the masterclasses he gave here, at Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1996. And I have learned a lot from him (I'm also a choir conductor) about Bach and the music.
So, if you do like the "historical" recordings, I don't know what to say... But, if you do love the music, the expression and the wisdom, Rilling is "der rechte Weg". Regards,
PS: I agree with you: the "Sicut locutus est", in the "stille antico", is really wonderful. And what about the "Omnes generationes"? I've sunged the choir's soprano 2 of the "Magnificat" in a concert with a choir composed by 500 singers. That was at the local "Teatro Colón", with the "Buenos Aires Philharmonic". It was an unforgettable experience!
Magnificat and St. Matthew - Herreweghe was here...Tormod Carstens (April 23, 1998):
As I'm writing this, Peter Kooy is singing "quia fecit mihi magna" with the same beautiful, warm, soothing bass with which he first convinced me that he really did want to bury Jesus in the Matthew Passion. He is my favourite for those low notes, and although I have heard Emma Kirkby do things I know for a fact are humanly impossible(I mean that as a compliment...), I like Barbara Schlick's soprano as well. Subtract René Jacobs slightly nasal (IMHO) counter-tenor, and I would recommend the Herreweghe Passion without hesitation. I have heard "Erbarme Dich" from the Karajan recording, and I'd trade René for whoever's singing on that recording any day. It's the difference between a frown and tears-in-your-eyes-goosebumps-all-over... But I'd give that stick to mr. Herreweghe, 'cause I don't think much of the marching band tempos of Gardiner either, or the Karajan Wiener-Classical approach... Oh yes - now the flutes opening the "Esurientes". Gorgeous, In my Humble opinion...
Now for a couple of questions for you knowledgeable people:
1. Hasn't Emma Kirkby done the Motets? What's the name & number of that recording?
2. Did Glenn Gould ever record the chromatic fantasy and fugue? Name & number, please! I have a (rather rotten) norwegian recording that sounds like the pianist never understood how the melodies went at all, and just hammered away at the chords... I would love to hear Glenn Gould's interpretation of that one! He was the one who won me over to Bach in the first place; bless him! :)
3. Have you all heard of David Cope's EMI software? He let his computer compose some music - hear the "Bach" invention or the "Chopin" mazurka at http://arts.ucsc.edu/faculty/cope/emi-rmf.html hehe - I kind of like it... who would give a Macintosh that much credit?
Magnificat--In defense of speedingRyan Michero wrote (April 25, 1998):
<< RE: Hmm... I wouldn't dismiss Gardiner's interpretation (Magnificat) as a "speeding contest". Yes, the tempi are fast, but Bach also took tempi on the quick side compared to the trends of his day (according to C.P.E.). Personally, I like Gardiner's version very much. >>
< Ryan, Reading your remarks, I am very interested in hearing this recording. Could you please indentify it for me? Thank you. Also, you refer to something apparently written by C.P.E. about his father, I wonder what that is? I have done a lot of reading about JSB because I find it fascinating that such an obnoxious old curmudgeon could have possibly created so much beauty. >
Obnoxious old curmudgeon? Certainly if you've done a lot of reading on Bach you know that his personality is more complex than that. Don't be fooled by that stodgy old Hausmann portrait. I'll bet Bach was a friendly, unpretentious guy, someone with whom I would've liked to sit down and drink a beer. It's interesting the ways people have perceived JSB. For instance, some people still ignore Bach's "fun" pieces like the Peasant and Coffee Cantatas, and the Quodlibet at the end of the Goldberg Variations, treating them like they're embarassing lapses of taste from a generally very serious guy. But he had a sense of humor, and I think there is a lot of liveliness and wit in so much of Bach's music that many performers and listeners miss.
Which leads me to the business at hand: Gardiner's recording of the D-major Magnificat. This is Bach interpretation at its most vibrant and lively, with fast tempi and brisk choral and instrumental attacks bringing this extrovert work to life. Yet Gardiner can be sensitive too--witness the lovely Quia Respexit (followed, though, by a characteristically hair-raising Omnes Generationes). Overall, though, this is a powerful, stirring recording--too powerful and stirring for many people's taste actually. Glance at the last few posts on this topic and you'll see what I mean. Laurent characterized the tempo of the first movement as a "joke," and I understand why, although I don't agree with him.
Anyway, it's worth a listen. The CD is on Philips, 411 458-2, John Eliot Gardiner conducting the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir. Along with the Magnificat is Cantata BWV 51 for solo soprano, sung here by the fantastic Emma Kirkby. However, with Gardiner's fast tempi, this recording is rather short for a full-priced cd--only 48 minutes. As I said in my other post, I prefer Hickox for this work if you also like Vivaldi, or Herreweghe if you don't have Cantata 80 (although Gardiner is overall my favorite conductor, and his recordings of the passions and the B-minor Mass are harder to beat).
And about the C.P.E. Bach thing: I get much of my information on J.S. Bach from David and Mendel's The Bach Reader, a wonderful collection of source letters dealing with Bach's life, writings on Bach by his contemporaries, and other historical essays. It's an essential purchase for serious Bachians, I think. Perhaps you know of it, or have read it already. Well, my comments about tempi were taken from passages in this book, which contains a few letters and essays written by (or in one case, probably written by) C.P.E. Bach. However, it appears I have made a mistake, kind of. The comments I attributed to C.P.E. were actually written by J.N. Forkel, Bach's first biographer (1802). I was right in a way though, because Forkel got his information about J.S. second-hand from C.P.E. and W.F. Bach, so they actually said it first.
Forkel mentions choice of tempi in two places: "In conducting [J.S.] was very accurate, and of the tempo, which he generally took very lively, he was uncommonly sure." And later: "In the execution of his own pieces he generally took the time very brisk, but contrived, besides this briskness, to introduce so much variety in his performance that under his hand every piece was, as it were, like a discourse." Interesting, eh? I wonder if Bach would've been criticized by posters for "speeding"?
P.S.--I'm an American, and I think the word "hemidemisemiquaver" is cool. Oh, and other than spelling some words without a "u" and speaking with a different accent, Americans talk and write in "the King's English." Now, of course, there are regional and cultural differences in speech, and we have a unique arsenal of slang terms, but that happens with every widespread language. And as for the language litmus test, "Do we understand each other?," the answer is yes. The same cannot be said for people in different parts of, say, Italy or Spain.
MagnificatEhud Shiloni wrote (April 26, 1998):
Hi to all Magnificat fans, A question to you all: How comes none of you mentioned Parrott?? This is my favorite version:
Virgin Veritas # 7243 5 61340 2 7
Magnificat BWV 243
Andrew Parrott conductor
Emily Van Evera, Evelyn Tubb - soprao
Caroline Trevor - alt
Howard Crook - tenor
Simon Grant bass
Recorded in 1989.
Superb performance, with Parrot's specialty: Big sound from a small group ( I believe we must do some discussion about this great Bach interpreter!).
Also on same CD:
BWV 11 - Ascension Oratorio
BWV 50 - Cantata fragment
Magnificat in DRyan Michero wrote (June 22, 1999):
< Benjamin Mullins wrote: Can anyone recommend a good, preferably period, recording of the above mentioned work? >
Hi, Ben. Sorry for the delayed response, but I wanted to have something worthwhile to say.
Perhaps you have bought the Hickox, Herreweghe, or Parrott versions already. If so, great! These are all excellent versions, so enjoy.
If not, I can recommend Masaaki Suzuki's new recording of the D-major Magnificat with the Bach Collegium Japan. His performance, as always, is superb, with expressively moulded slower movements and thrilling climaxes.
Yet there are other Magnificat recordings out there that are as good or better (although I haven't done a direct comparison, I think I marginally prefer Hickox's Magnificat to Suzuki's because of the vocal soloists). So why choose Suzuki? Because of wonderful performances of three other Baroque Magnificat settings by Kuhnau and Zelenka. Kuhnau was of course Bach's predecessor as Kantor at Leipzig, and his Magnificat, apparently his largest-scale surviving work, is a delightful setting, with more ingenuity and melodic invention than I had anticipated. Zelenka was a contemporary of Bach and a resident at the royal court at Dresden. He has a fascinating, individualistic style (I found myself truly surprised at a couple of turns of phrases and false cadences in his settings). The performances are excellent, and I must single out the sopranos Miah Persson and Yukari Nonoshita for their lovely, expressive singing throughout this recording.
If you are interested in these couplings, go for the Suzuki!
Harry J. Steinman wrote (July 6, 1999):
Some weeks ago, Ehud and others called attention to a recording of the Magnificat conducted by Diego Fasolis (it includes the Ensemble Vanitas and the chorus "della Radio Svizzera"). I ordered and received this outstanding disc a few weeks ago, and I have just one word: Holey Smokes!
(The disc is on the Arts label, 47374-2, and I ordered from www.allegro-music.com which has, by the way, a rather tasty catalog of JSB and others. Their entire catalog is downloadable as an Excel or an Adobe .pdf file)
I wish I had a musician's vocabulary to describe this wonderful disc, but I can tell you it makes me very happy to listen to it. This Magnificat begins with a horn fanfare that ought to satisfy both the HIP and modern instrument afficianados: It's clear, crisp and holds its own with the rest of the ensemble. Tempi throughout are bright without being rushed (of the 12 movements, only the "Et misericordia" exceeds three minutes...although I don't have another Magnificat with which to compare this one for timing) and soloist voices are properly focused; I don't remember suffering through any vibrato.
I had never listened to the Magnificat before and this was a superb intro to the work.
I must also say that I thought that BWV 21, (included on the recording along with motet BWV 225) was worth the $10 price. This glorious cantata included some wonderful moments for me, such as the soprano/bass duet, "Komm, mein Jesu" and the chorus, "Sei nun wieder zufrieden" a marvellous piece in which the three soloists sing the theme in counterpoint (contrary motion, the liner notes explain) whicle the tenors from the chorus sing a chorale. I find it especially difficult to listen to the entire cantata without simply repeating this composition over and over.
The motet, "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied" (BWV 225), written for eight voices in a double choir, is a gem. The first section is densely polyphonic and the second assigns two different texts to the two choirs. The final section combines all of the voices into a monumental four-voice fugue.
I could go on rhapsodizing about this disc, but I'd rather just listen to it. Anybody that wants to invest US$10 well might consider acquiring this CD. And to those who first recommended Fasolis I must say, "Thank you"
What a beautiful morningRobert Brunwin de Jong wrote (December 5, 1999):
Heaven, isn't, to be waked up by a telephone call of a daughter, herself an excellent soprano, saying: "`Dad, turn the radio on, they perform the Magnificat".
And then, morning sun shining through your bedroom windows, with your wife listen to that magnificent opus, this time performed by Suzuki and his Japan Bach ensemble. And surprisingly I could guess the performers. Why is that, how come?
I am so moved by such a beginning of the day. Wish you all a happy Sunday.
Bach's MagnificatMonte Garrett wrote (June 10, 2000):
I only recently joined the list and enjoy learning more and more about Bach. I just completed my master's degree in choral conducting, so I'm more familiar with Bach's vocal/choral music than anything else.
I have several recordings of Magnificat and wonder what are the favourite recordings of those on the list. The recordings I have, in no particular order of preference, are:
Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin, Herbert von Karajan (DG 2531 048)
To my ear, this recording is extremely heavy-handed and overly romantic. The flip side of this LP is Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms.
Gächinger Kantorei and Bach-Collegium Stuttgart, Helmuth Rilling (Sony Classical 48280)
This is probably my favourite, but also the one I've had the longest. That may give it an unfair advantage.
English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner (Philips 411 458 2).
Schola Cantorum of Oxford/Northern Chamber Orchestra, Jeremy Summerly and Nicholas Ward (Naxos 8.554056)
Taverner Consort and Players, Andrew Parrott (Virgin Veritas 5616472)
Because this recording is sung one to a part, to my ear, the choruses are much less exciting, especially "Omnes generationes." Also, having sung the work in December certainly taints my opinion in this matter.
New Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim (EMI Classics 7646342)
Like Karajan, Barenboim's approach is heavy, especially in the choruses. I once heard a music librarian/historian call a less than HIP performance of Bach termed "Lutheran goo." To my ear, Barenboim's recording falls into that category.
Are there other recordings that I need to hear? Does Harnoncourt have a good recording? I have a Messiah recording of his that I detest!
Also, yesterday I picked up the 3 CD set of the harpsichord concertos performed by Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert. This recording is on the Musical Heritage Society label, but appears to have originally been released on DG. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not so familiar with a great deal of Bach's instrumental and other music, but this was a used set I picked up for $5.99 (US). I figured that for the price I couldn't go wrong.
Michael Stitt wrote (June 11, 2000):
(To Monte Garrett) I'm particularly fond of the recording undertaken with the Academy of Ancient Music directed by Chris Hogwood. It also contains one of the Glorias of Vivaldi as well. The engineering recording is bright and nicely done.
Josiah Armes wrote (June 11, 2000):
(To Monte Garrett) Welcome to the list! I hope you enjoy the discussion here. My speciality (or actually my favourite topic) is the organ works of Bach. I play pipe organ myself and am an ardent admirer of his work.
Marie Jensen wrote (June 11, 2000):
(To Monte Garrett) Yes, the low price CD ARTS 47374-2 where Diego Fconducts Coro della Radio Svizzera and ensemble Vanitas. Soloists: Balducci, Clausen, Lang, Bettini. It is great and you get a terrific BWV 21 too.
Anne Megan wrote (June 11, 2000):
(To Monte Garrett) Lucky you! Several people on this list have recommended this to me and I have been unable to find it. Enjoy it for me.
John Graves wrote (June 11, 2000):
(To Michael Stitt) I'm not familiar with the Hogwood recording--sounds interesting. Could you give a citation?
I also like Hickox's recording on Chandos coupled, which is coupled with a lively performance of the Vivaldi Gloria. The Gloria is preceded by Emma Kirkby's singing of a Vivaldi motet--it segues into the Gloria nicely.
William Rowland (Ludwig van Beethoven) wrote (June 12, 2000):
One of the big problems of the Romantic era is that tended to treat all music as Romantic music. Although as far as composition is concerned the Romantic Era died in the 1940s with Rachmaninov. However, People like Paderewski, Rubinstein and Toscanini kept it going in their performance styles. Karajan may be placed in the category of Romantic Conductors just as is Stokowski) now remembered mostly for Walt Disney's Fantasia) and Gene Ormandy.
I have heard several different Magnificats of Bach and have even conducted it myself but what I find most distressing is to build up the Gloria beginning at the Organ point in on big crescendo of a glorious romantic build up and then suddenly go into the rest of the piece---a big let down that is enough to give me heartburn.
< I have not heard Harnoncourt's Messiah but he generally is a purist and gives worthy baroque style performances befitting the music he performs. >
One of the worse performances I have ever heard of this was a romantic treatment of this score.
In the Halleluia chorus and other parts of this performance; the conductor (nameless and now deceased and who has nearly 500 people in his chorus) drips every once of pathos he could (more appropriate to Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.6) get out of the performers having them mark crescendi and dimunendi that are not in the score as written by Händel. He also did the big build up before a fugue and then the big let down with the start of the fugue.
I do not know where you are writing from but if you would be interested in teaching at the High School or Middle School level; please contact Greenville School District, Greenville, S.C. as South Carolina has a critical shortage of Music teachers. They have a Website--simply look them up in your browser and send an email to Lillian Fleming, Director of Human Resources. If you are not certified you will need to take the Praxis exam for Music and the Professional area. If you already have a certificate; it will be a simple matter of reciprocity with you home state.
Jane Newble wrote (June 12, 2000):
(To Monte Garrett) My two favourite recordings are, in order of preference:
Herreweghe on Harmonia Mundi (HMC 901326)
If I had to keep one Magnificat it would be this one. It makes me want to dance through the room, it's so joyful. Quite the opposite of the 'heavy-handiness' of Karajan. I have been fortunate enough not to hear Karajan conducting Bach. I once heard him murdering another baroque composer and that was enough. Also on this CD is the cantata BWV 80 "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott".
Diego Fasolis on Arts 47374-2
This also has BWV 21 and BWV 225. The singing on this CD is amazingly fast.
Suzuki on BIS-CD-1011
This has the additional bonus of Magnificats by Johann Kuhnau, and Jan Dismas Zelenka. A beautiful CD.
Congratulations with your master's degree. It must be wonderful to be able to conduct Bach!
Thomas Boyce wrote (June 12, 2000):
[To Monte Garrett] I have a "Magnificat" by Karl Böhm, which is very good. Great piece. Have you heard the "Dixit Dominus" by Händel?
Thomas Boyce wrote (June 12, 2000):
[To Michael Stitt] Yes, I've heard that and agree that it's well done. And the "Gloria" is certainly top ten Vivaldi.
Benjamin Mullins wrote (June 13, 2000):
[To Anne Megan] You might try contacting the English Concert directly, that's how I got my set. (They may not have any left though, but you can still try) I had to pay full price for them, but I am glad I spent the money, they are worth every cent!
Harry J. Steinman wrote (June 13, 2000):
[To Monte Garrett] Let me also add my own welcome to the List! From the content of your email (full detail) I know that I shall look forward to reading more of your posts.
The very best recording of the Magnificat I've ever heard is by Diego Fasolis with the Coro della Radio Svizzera and Ensemble Vanitas (Arts 47374-2). This wonderful recording also includes my favourite version of BWV 21 ("Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis") and the Motet, BWV 225, "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied".
I'm sorry, I can't tell you all the reasons why this is such a great recording, other than the fact that it just 'works' for me...and works VERY well. I'm not familiar with the singers (Antonella Balducci, S; Ulrike Clausen, A; Frieder Lang, T; and Fulvio Bettini, B) but they are terrific. Right this moment I'm listening to Balducc's "Et exultavit" and I hear her voice clearly and can hear the instrumentation clearly, too. Her voice is vibrato-free and is perfectly matched with the ensemble...and in the "Quia Respexit" she sings so tenderly, entwining with the oboe...until the chorus comes in, almost surprisingly, "Omnia generatines".
I remember another list member (Ehud Shiloni maybe?) raving about this CD and so I bought it...and it was definitely worth it. Ehud, if that was you, what was it in particular that you liked about the recording?
In any event, this is one of my favourite Bach vocal recordings. Fasolis' BWV 21 is head-and-shoulders above everybody else (including Herreweghe, and I'm usually very high on Phillip Herreweghe).
Steven Langley Guy wrote (June 13, 2000):
(To Sybrand Bakker) Excuse me while I step around this last contribution. Hogwood uses the E flat version of the Magnificat, which features two treble recorders instead of transverse flutes. It is quite a lovely variation and there have been several other recordings of this version in recent years. I have the Philip Pickett recording on L'Oiseau-Lyre, which is quite nice. This CD also contains the Cantata BWV 63 "Christen, atzet diesen Tag" and the Sanctus in D major BWV 238. The CD in entitled "Magnificat - A Bach Christmas" by the New London Consort directed by Philip Pickett (L'Oiseau-Lyre 452 920-2). A really nice CD.
Pascal Bédaton wrote (June 13, 2000):
(To Monte Garrett) I totally agree with Marie.
The Fasolis recording of the Magnificat is my favourite recording nearly followed by Herreweghe but the Fasolis one includes also good recordings of the Cantata BWV 21 and the Motet BWV 225 and is a low price CD.
Is anybody able to give the reference of the Helmut Rilling recording of the motets?
Donald Satz wrote (June 13, 2000):
Jane mentioned the Suzuki on BIS, which also has Magnificats from Zelenka and Kuhnau. It is, as Jane stated, a beautiful disc. Having the Zelenka and Kuhnau works, each one quite good, is a great alternative to another Bach coupling.
Another very good Bach Magnificat comes from Gardiner on Philips, but the real highlight of this disc is a superb Cantata BWV 51, a transcendent performance, which I find thrilling every time I listen to it. Emma Kirby is at her best as well.
Laughing Cavalier wrote (June 15, 2000):
If you are talking about the Hogwood recording that I think you are, that is the 1723 E Flat version, with the Christmas interpolations.
You are right; it is wonderful.
My favourite recording of the familiar D Major version is the one with Joshua Rifkin and the BEnsemble that at least used to be available on Pro Arte.
Ryan Michero wrote (June 15, 2000):
(To Laughing Cavalier) Yes, but it is actually conducted by Simon Preston.
John Graves wrote (June 16, 2000):
(To Ryan Michero) OK, now I understand--couldn't find the Hogwood version anywhere.
I have Preston's E-flat version and really like it, except for some below par singing from the choir in certain spots. It's my favourite recording of the E-flat version, although I haven't heard Pickett's yet.
Matthew Westphal wrote (June 17, 2000):
(To John Graves) I found Pickett's rather uninspired. The Glissando label will be releasing a new recording of the E-Flat Magnificat this autumn with the Regensburg Cathedral Choir and, among the soloists, Susanne Ryden, Drew Minter and Peter Harvey.
Leo Moons wrote (June 18, 2000):
(To Pascal Bedaton) There is an edition of the complete works of J.S. Bach by 'Hänssler Classic' in a joint production with 'The International Bachacademy Stuttgart' under the direction of Helmuth Rilling. This edition is the so-called "Millennium Edition". (Internet: http://www.bachakademie.de and http://www.haenssler.de/klassik) The CD with the Motets of Bach has the following number: 92/069. In fact it is a cassette with 2 CD's containing: Anhang 159, BWV 228, Anhang 160, BWV 231, 225, 226, 229, BWV 118, deest, 230.
Bach's Magnificat in E Flat, BWV243aJohSebastianBach wrote (June 17, 2000):
< Matthew Westphal wrote: I found Pickett's rather uninspired. The Glissando label will be releasing a new recording of the E-Flat Magnificat this autumn with the Regensburg Cathedral Choir and, among the soloists, Susanne Ryden, Drew Minter and Peter Harvey. >
Did you know that the E Flat version was published before the much more familiar D Major version?
Matthew Westphal wrote (June 17, 2000):
(To JohSebastianBach) I knew it was composed and performed well before the D Major version (for Christmas 1723, if memory serves).
I don't know which was published first; I know very little about the history of the publication of Bach's works, although I'm given to understand that little of his music was published in his lifetime.
JohSebastianBach wrote (June 17, 2000):
(To Matthew Westphal) Your memory is correct. The E Flat version was written for and first performed on Christmas Day 1723.
The first printing of the Magnificat was posthumous. It was published in Bonn in 1811. I can't remember who the publisher was, but I do know that copies of this print are extremely rare. I think that there is only one copy in the USA, in a private collection in New York City.
Continue to Part 2