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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

Magnificat BWV 243

General Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Question

Luke Burmeister
wrote (February 28, 2002):
I am an undergraduate music student in Iowa. I have a music history assignment to research a Bach piece. I was assigned his Magnicat in D. The question I have is for anyone and everyone.

Does anyone know of good sources for information about either his Magnicat or Bach's church cantatas.

Boyd Pehrson wrote (March 1, 2002):
[To Luke Burmeister] Bach is one of those subjects you will want to spend that bit of extra effort on, for the subject of Bach exponentially rewards the serious student.

Eric Chafe wrote what I consider to be "the book" if you want to research why Bach did what he did in designing his Magnificat. The book is titled "Analyzing Bach Cantatas" (2000) and it is the current best book on the subject. Though I don't believe Mr. Chafe's book details the Magnificat directly, his introduction and analysis on why Bach did what he did in general is the best treatment anywhere. Chafe comfortably and concisely explains the construction of Bach's religious environment and beliefs. Scholars and musicians universally agree that understanding this is the key to understanding Bach's sacred compositions.

Charles Sanford Terry wrote some excellent books on Bach's works. During the 1920's Mr. Terry wrote several works that a generation later turned out to be groundbreaking. Terry was among the first scholars to do exhaustive research on Bach's religious perspective, something that the scholars of the time paid little attention to. C.S. Terry's five volumes for the "Musical Pilgrim Series" are "Bach Cantatas and Oratorios, Passions, Magnificat, Lutheran Masses and Motets." (Oxford University Press, 1925) Johnson Reprint Corporation, N.Y. and London reprinted these into one volume in 1972. Terry provides a detailed analysis of the Magnificat there.

W. Murray Young wrote a marvellous book titled "The Sacred Dramas of J.S. Bach, A Reference and Textual Interpretation," (1994 McFarland Publishing). In this book you'll find a nice 5-page step by step analysis of Bach's Magnificat. I have read Young's work and it is reliable scholarship.

W.G. Whittaker is another music scholar from the 1920's who brought historical insights to bear on his analysis of Bach's Cantatas. Mr. Whittaker doesn't address the Magnificat directly but he will give you insights into the Cantatas. His book "Fugitive Notes on Certain Cantatas and the Motets of J.S.Bach" (1924) is another that addresses Bach's sacred vocal and choral works from an historical perspective.

John Butt in "The Cambridge Companion to Bach" (1997) edits a good collection of essays on Bach. His collection includes a nice little article on "The Mature Vocal Works" of Bach by Dr. Robin Leaver. Dr. Leaver does reference the Magnificat briefly, and in the context of other Bach Latin works. Dr. Leaver translated and edited Günter Stiller's classic work on Bach's Churches in Leipzig called "J.S. Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig." Also Christoph Wolff of Harvard University is widely considered the current greatest authority on Bach, and his books focus on historical records and documents of Bach.

Here are Library of Congress numbers for the above books. Just hand these to your friendly librarian, and ask for an inter-library loan of any books that are not currently available at your local University Library:
-Butt, John: "The Cambridge Companion to Bach" (1997 Cambridge University Press). LC no.: ML 410 B13 C36 1997
-Chafe, Eric: "Analyzing Bach Cantatas" (Oxford U P 2000) LC no.: ML 410 B13 C38.
-Terry, Charles Sanford: "Bach Cantatas and Oratorios, Passions, Magnificat, Lutheran Masses and Motets." (1925)
Johnson Reprint Corporation, N.Y. and London,1972. LC no.: ML 410 B3 T38.
-Whittaker, W.G.: "Fugitive Notes on Certain Cantatas and the Motets of J.S. Bach" (1924). ML 410 B3 W5.
-Young, W. Murray: "The Sacred Dramas of J.S. Bach, A Reference and Textual Interpretation," (1994 McFarland Publishing). LC no.: ML 410 B13 Y8 1994.

You will want to investigate the Early Music Journal (and other such Journals) and its indexes for articles on Bach's Magnificat. Also see if you can borrow from your library or another as many recordings of the Magnificat as you can, for the sleeve notes on CDs and LPs can often provide interesting information found no where else. You could check introductory notes on musical scores of the Magnificat and also one could look for Conductors notes and guidelines from books such as Don V. Moses' little book "Face to Face With an Orchestra : A Handbook for Choral Conductors Performing Händel's Messiah, Bach's Magnificat, Vivaldi's Gloria, and Other Works", Don V Moses, Robert W. Demaree, Jr., Allen F. Ohmes ; forward by Robert Shaw. Published by Prestige, Princeton,N.J.1987.

If you are looking for recordings, the most historically accurate recording I know of is the 1984 Teldec recording using the Wiener Sängerknaben, Chorus Viennensis and Concentus Musicus Wien directed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt (Magnificat D-Dur BWV 243, Teldec 0630 13573-2).Otherwise the recorded use of boys' voices for this composition would be limited to the St Thomas Choir with female soloists under the direction both of Rotzsch, and of Kurt Thomas. Also, there is a recent CD by King's College Choir with female soloist voices.

It is always fun to include Internet references in your papers. Bernard Greenberg has a great 'Bach frequently asked questions' web site (listed in the bookmarks at Bach_Cantatas), and also Christoph Wolff has a great lecture online about Bach's Mass in B minor (the link is found in message number 87 at Bach_Cantatas).

I hope this helps. You have an interesting topic, and one worth spending the time to dig into, for doing so will bring personal rewards.

Krzysztof Czerwinski wrote (March 1, 2002):
[To Boyd Pehrson] Thanks very much Boyd! It was very interesting and helpful not only for Luke.

There is one more historical recording of Magnificat with boyís soloists - by Tölzer Knabenchor recorded in 1995 (deutshe harmonia mundi 05472 77411 2). Personally I think itís much better than Harnoncourtís Magnificat. Soloists are better prepared for these very difficult airs and the choir sounds more selectively. Itís great and fresh recording.

Andreas Burhardt wrote (March 2, 2002):
[To Krzysztof Czerwinski] Just a short addition to your post. The recording of the Tölzer Knabenchor was made about 1973. It was reissued on CD in 1995 by DHM. They don't mention the original recording date in the booklet. The soloist were Walter Gampert, Peter Hinterreiter (S), Andreas Stein (A), Theo Altmeyer (T) and Siegmund Nismgern (B).

Krzysztof Czerwinski wrote (March 3, 2002):
[To Andreas Burghardt] In my booklet there is only date of recording C.P.E. Bach Magnificat Ė July 1966, and under (I donít know what exactly mean P and C in a circle) 1995. So I thought that this is the date of recording Bachís Magnificat, because quality of sound is much better than on Magnificat of C.P.E. Thanks for your addition Andreas.

Boyd Pehrson wrote (March 1, 2002):
[To Krzysztof Czerwinski] It's great to hear from you. I am glad you found the post of some interest. I thought others may like to have the information as well so in my reply to Luke I posted it for all. Thanks for the recording update, I haven't heard that, and would love to find that CD.

Andreas thanks for the Tölz Boys' recording information. I can put that in our Database. Marvellously, we can now list all of the soloists, thanks to Andreas!


Magnificat - Quia fecit / Continuo

Stevan Vasiljevic wrote (August 28, 2002):
Can anyone please assist me in finding an answer on what is the correct instrumental accompaniment for movement "Quia fecit mihi magna" from "Magnificat", BWV 243 & 243a? I have heard a lot of performances of both D-major and Eflat-major versions, and I've noticed several different instrumental accompaniments of "Quia fecit". Sometimes there's only basso continuo, sometimes there's a discrete organ playing a simple melody different from both vocal and b.c. parts. I have also a MIDI version of "Magnificat", and in "Quia fecit" movement there is, beside vocal bass and b.c., also a quite complex but lovely harpsichord part.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 28, 2002):
[To Stevan Vasiljevic] In addition to the solo bass part, the only instrumental part indicated is a single basso continuo musical line of the ostinato type. For both versions, BWV 243 & 243a, Bach wrote simply the word 'continuo,' a word that allows for a number of different combinations of instruments. This mvt. is one of the typical bass aria types that Bach used rather extensively throughout his cantatas. Using Appendix 2 of "Oxford Composer Companions:J.S.Bach [Boyd]" I can find 21 similar arias that Bach composed for bass. He also has the same type for other voice categories. Sometimes (not in the group of 21 that I mentioned) Bach will specifically stipulate which instruments from the continuo group should be used: harpsichord, violone, viola da gamba, organo, lute, etc. What this means is that Bach has specified which instruments, in addition to the obligatory (usually) keyboard instrument, were to be used for the performance of the mvt. under Bach's direction. When playing the keyboard instrument himself for such a basso continuo accompaniment consisting of a single line of notes with a figured bass indicating the choral structure that may be used, Bach is known to have freely improvised an additional part or parts, much to the amazement of those who recorded this observation because all that is visible on the part is a single line of music with occasional numbers above certain notes.

The HIP mvt., based on observations by numerous musicologists, has changed the primary keyboard instrument to be used under these circumstances (when simply the word 'Continuo' is indicated) from basically harpsichord to the use of an organ in the form of a portative, chest organ, or church organ with an appropriately reduced registration to match the voice. This is why you will find that the older non-HIP recordings will use the harpsichord, but the more recent HIP will prefer an organ or some other continuo instrument or combination thereof. The Rilling cantata recordings still preserve the older school of thought that a harpsichord should be used as the main continuo instrument.

An example of what you describe as "a discrete organ playing a simple melody different from both vocal and bc parts" can be found in some of the Karl Richter cantata recordings. This is certainly in line with the descriptions by his contemporaries of Bach's playing of similar types of mvts.

When Bach simply writes "continuo" and nothing else, the conductor can make a choice among the available bc instruments that will be appropriate for the given situation in which the work is to be performed. Listen to some of the Koopman cantata recordings where you will find a lute and a low string instrument (and possibly an organ) playing in the bc group. Harnoncourt may sometimes use only a violoncello as the bc. in which case, of course, he plays this part himself.

It is interesting to hear the variations of the combinations that are possible as well as the manner in which the figured bass is realized.

Robert Sherman wrote (August 28, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] IMO the opportunity for the keyboardist to add his own musical thoughts at will is one of the glories of baroque music. But it's disappointing how many seem to content themselves with brainless harmonic fill.

I'd be interested in list members' views on who are the most creative and appropriate continuo players in baroque oratorio.

My own favorite is Leslie Pearson, who recorded mainly in the 1960s. He always built on and magnified the composer's thoughts, rather than just doing ego trips of adding his own notes.

Another is J. Reilly Lewis, who conducts the Washington Bach Consort. I remember singing in a Messiah performance in which his harpsichord ornamentation was so enthralling I was tempted to stop singing just to hear him better.

Ludwig wrote (August 29, 2002):
[To Ludwig] The problem with most folks is that they are so classically ground in classical techniques that they can not nor will not do continuo as it should be done. Want a good continuo player?--find someone who is good a playing jazz who also can read music.

Such insistence on classical technique once cost me a job as Organist at a Daytona Beach Florida, USA, Methodist Church which is located near the Beach, but at least I can still have the priviledge of calling this musical idiot the idiot that she was and is when it comes to performing baroque music. This so called music director seemed to think that everything should be played according to classical/romantic methods. If you are a professional church musician do not perform for this or any Methodist Churches in Daytona ---you are not likely to get paid (as I have never been and they have had more than ten years to pay me) though agreed on) and also they are likely to scam you by using tryouts to get free services.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (September 1, 2002):
A Jazz player? Its funny 'cause its true. (which is why I really should rejoin my school jazz band-so close to Baroque its incredible!)

Anyway, back to the continuo/figured bass thing.

It was a long time since I had listened to my Schrier SMP, as I would listen to my Bernstein or something else. While the late American gets the work on a large scale, I'm not too certain how much he understood the details of it all. (I cringe when I get the idea that he conducted it in the hair-raising manner that he conducted the Shakespeare copy thing, but I somehow doubt it.)

So when I started listening to the Schrier, I was pleasantly amazed at how prominent the organ was. Now I understand the whole continuo-figured bass idea, but I just love how every performance of Baroque music is different (or at least should be).

I'm not sure if the organist(s) was (were) accurate in the embellishments, but this interpretative freedom is what really makes the Baroque era the best for me.


BWV 243: Sicut Locutus: Canon or Fugue?

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (September 4, 2002):
As most of you know, in Magnificat, the second last section is the contrapuntal, moderately-fast chorus "Sicut Locutus".

It is obviously in canonic form, but is it a fugue or a stricter type of structure? I mean, I don't remember the theme going through very many changes, which would define it as a stricter form.

I would like to hear more scholarly views on this.

Ludwig wrote (September 4, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] I have never given much thought to this perhaps because Bach puts a fugue everywhere he can just as Tschaikovsky does a waltz.

I can not find my score of the Magnificat at the moment. However, a canon is a very strict form in which the exact melody (statement) comes in at various points (answer) usually at the Octave or third or the same as it started without going into another key and the statement often acts as it's answer. Two of the most famous canons are(1) 'sumer is a coming---ku ku 'and (2) 'Frere Jacques' which are good learning examples of how to write a canon.

A fugue on the other hand , although it can be in strict form along canonic lines, is a somewhat freer form and in Bach's time anwesered at the 6th, 3rd, 4th or 5th and rarely any other positions as these other positions generate dissonances which while acceptable in contemporary music were verbotten in Bach's time. The answer in a fugue is not necessarily the statement as in a canon but may be a variation of the statement and in some cases have little revelance to the statement at all in more complex forms of fuges(double, triple quadruple to sextuple etc). I suspect that where Bach is headed here is combining the canonic form with the freerer form of the fugue. Of all the people who have written in the Fugal and Canon form over the past 500 years; Bach is the supreme master which he demonstrates in his 'der kunst der fuge" (the art of the fuge). However, it remained for Beethoven to develop the Fugue to it's ultimate state in his String Quartet Opus 130 which he could have never done without his stuof Handel (Beethoven owned a complete set of all the works that Handel was known to have written at that time) and Bach. I am not aware of anyone who has developed the fudge any further at this exalted level since then
although some come close in doing so.


Reflections on Rehearing Bach's Magnificat

Walter Meyer wrote (December 25, 2002):
I heard Bach's Magnificat, one of my favorite choral works, on the car radio and I remember hearing it performed live for the first time, over fifty years ago by the Robert Shaw Chorale at our university auditorium. But it wasn't the first time I heard it. I had heard it on a 78 rpm recording in the music and art room of our student union. But I wouldn't have listened to it if it hadn't been recommended to me by my college room mate, a pre-med chemistry major, product of the Buffalo (NY) public school system, the son of the owner of a kosher butcher shop.

This was before there were CDs, cassette tapes, or even LPs. This 18-year old guy, not a "nerd", was familiar w/ at least the standard classical repertoire, as well as jazz and operetta music of the early part of the century. And he was not unusual among my school mates, none of whom were music majors, and many of whom weren't even from NYC where a kid growing up might, rightly or wrongly, be more likely expected to have been exposed to and have acquired a taste for classical music. Where did they pick it up? W/ the exception of one strange guy w/ means who collected opera recordings, none of them had collections of recordings comparable in scope to what so many of us here have. Nor would they have had performance experience. And while there was probably more exposure to classical music in the schools then than today, I don't believe it would have encompassed all the works w/ which they were familiar. I can only conclude it must have been the radio broadcasts by not only the stations dedicated to classical music but the other stations as well. I know that's where I, who had no phonograph records until I bought a cheap player during the summer between my second and third year of college, first heard and learned the classical works I still listen to today, although I don't remember listening to any choral music at the time other than to Beethoven's Ninth.

Classical music on the radio isn't dead (yet) although it's harder to find in some areas of this country than in others. Here in the Washington DC area, we still get classical music from a local public radio station, a Baltimore public radio station, and one commercial station. I wonder whether in areas such as ours, the same proportion of young people today develop an interest in classical music as they did in the mid and late 40s of the last century.

And now I have a question about the Magnificat itself, which I thought I knew quite well. There was a choral passage played over the car radio that I did not recognize after the "Et exsultavit" instead of the "Quia respexit humilitatem" aria, which is followed by the choral "Omnes generationes" which was not what I was hearing. At first I thought that I was listening to a recording of selected choral works and got out of the car to conduct my errand, but when I got back into the car, the familiar music of the Magnificat was back. I checked the station's Web site to see how they identified what they had been playing and discovered the following:

1:08 PM 284 Johann Sebastian Bach Magnificat in D BWV 243 Chandos 518 COND Richard Hickox Richard HIH kahks ORCH Collegium Musicum 90 SOLO Emma Kirkby, soprano SOLO Tessa Bonner, soprano SOLO Michael Chance, countertenor SOLO John Mark Ainsley, tenor SOLO Stephen Varcoe, baritone 27:14 C 1 16-27

Since the text of the Magnificat is, as I understand it, pretty much standard text taken from the second chapter of the Gospel According to St. Luke, I can't imagine that this was a hitherto unknown passage that had been discovered. So, assuming that I wasn't hallucinating, and that the radio station hadn't inadvertently shuffled two recordings, can anybody tell me, based possibly upon the above identification of the performance, what I heard?


Magnificat

Jeremy Thomas wrote (February 10, 2003):
May I ask for recommended recordings of this, please? I have searched the archives here but couldn't see anything in recent messages.

The choice seems to be overwhelming, so to limit them:

* Period instruments, please
* Medium to large scale chorus - not a one-to-a-part version
* Emphasis on excellent soloists

Sorry to be picky! But thanks for any guidance you can offer.

Pete Blue wrote (February 10, 2003):
[To Jeremy Thomas] Given your requirements, IMO you can't do better than the Herreweghe, which I have on Harmonia Mundi France 2951326. It has been repackaged several times, but I believe is still available as a single CD, fairly cheaply, coupled with the "A Mighty Fortress" cantata 80.

The flawless beauty of this recording and performance I've not heard bettered. I've rarely listened to my other Magnificats in the years since I got the Herreweghe.

Peter Bright wrote (February 10, 2003):
[To Pete Blue] I second Pete's opinion on Herreweghe's disc. However, do consider Masaaki Suzuki's version on BIS, which also includes Magnificats by Zelenka and Kuhnau. You can find a few opinions in the Bach Cantatas pages at:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV243-Suzuki.htm

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 10, 2003):
[To Jeremy Thomas] Please take a look at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV243.htm

You will find there detailed discograohy of the Magnifical in D major BWV 243 & the Magnificat in E flat major BWV 243a (about 55 complete recordings), as well as discussions of the Magnificat from the last three years.

This work, which almost never fails to uplift the spirit, has many fine recordings. Among the modern renditions my favourites are Fasolis and Suzuki.

The work certainly deserves extensive discussion. I hope we shall find the energy to do it after we finish the first round of weekly cantata discussions in the BCML in December 2003.

Peter Bright wrote (February 10, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] While we're on the subject of the Magnificat, I think Karl Richter's disc which also includes cantatas nos BWV 63 and BWV 65 is superb. I can't remember the label off hand (DG?), but it is a budget issue (preferable to the alternative pairing on Archiv with BWV140) and essential for those not afraid of modern forces and instruments. The music plays to Richter's strengths - powerful, urgent choruses and plenty of brass. Furthermore, anyone interested in great singing need not look further than the forces of Fischer-Dieskau, Herther Topper, Maria Stader, Ernst Haefliger, Edith Mathis and Peter Schreier. The result is far from what Bach may have intended but it's very powerful and involving music just the same.

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 10, 2003):
[To Peter Bright] The label is DG. See:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Richter-Rec2.htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV243-Rec2.htm

Only the first four soloists you mentioned particpate in the Magnificat. I agree with you about the power of this recording. One could hardly think of a better roster of soloists. Talking about old-time renditions, I am also very fond of Prohaska.

Regarding Bach intentions: who really knows? For me the spirit is much more important than the so-called 'authencity', and spirited renditions can be found in both traditional and HIP recordings.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 10, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] I like the Herreweghe (as some others have mentioned), and also the Kuijken.

In the two pages of discussion there at your site it looks as if nobody has said anything about the Kuijken. An interesting thing they do in the "Quia respexit" is a graceful inegal in both theoboe and vocal solo. It works, for my ears, but I think they could have been more subtle with it: enough inegal to be noticeable, but not so much as to sound like dotted rhythm (as it does here in some of it).

I suspect Alessandrini and his group have a good Magnificat in them, if his recent recording of Vivaldi's "Gloria" is any indication.

Pete Blue wrote (February 10, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] Absolutely. My first Magnificat, which has a wonderful devotional ambience, was a Vox mono LP with the Pro Musica Stuttgart conducted by Rolf Reinhardt. I think it was the first, or one of the first, that included the Christmas interpolations. I slightly overstated my preference for the Herreweghe a few posts back. I had forgotten how satisfying a non-HIP Magnificat can be.

Thierry van Bastelaer wrote (February 10, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Isn't the dotted rhythm that Brad mentions in the earlier incarnation of the same aria (Magnificat in Eb)?

Jeremy Thomas wrote (February 13, 2003):
Thanks to everyone who recommended Herreweghe's recording - I listened to it this morning, and it's just what I was looking for. Female sopranos too (which I forgot to mention), and a good coupling.

I shall return to "lurking" till I need another recommendation, but am very grateful for the help - best wishes.


Non-HIP Bach Magnificat

Marcus Maroney wrote (July 24, 2003):
I'm looking to buy a non-HIP recording. The ones I see at towerrecords.com are:

Summerly on Naxos (probably not).

Popp/Baker/Tear/Hemsley cond. Barenboim on EMI - I love Popp's voice, but am not a fan of Baker or Tear.

Klemperer on Urania (I would prefer good analogue or digital sound, unless the performance is a "must-have").

Münchinger on Decca - I love Elly Ameling - looks like this only comes in a big box, though. Are any of the other performances worth the money?

The Sixteen on Linn.

Marriner on EMI (this comes in an interesting-looking EMI box w/ some other settings by C.P.E. Bach, Charpentier, and Schubert, among others).

Richter on DG.

Bernstein on Sony - definitely interesting, but of the soloists I'm only familiar with Jennie Tourel, who doesn't really do much for me either way.

Corboz on Apex (I'm guessing probably not).

Based on my predictions the choice would probably come down to Marriner, Richter, or Bernstein.

Thanks in advance,

Ulvi wrote (July 24, 2003):
< Marcus Maroney wrote: I'm looking to buy a non-HIP recording.

Münchinger on Decca - I love Elly Ameling - looks like this only comes in a big box, though. Are any of the other performances worth the money? >
Isn't this the one with Töpper? You don't want this as anything other than a party record.

< Marriner on EMI (this comes in an interesting-looking EMI box w/ some other settings by C.P.E. Bach, Charpentier, and Schubert, among others). >
This may be your best bet.

Thomas Wood wrote (July 24, 2003):
I've always liked the recording on Decca Jubilee with Philip Ledger, the Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields and the the Choir of King's College Cambridge -- coupled with CPE Bach's Magnificat. But the recording uses an all-male chorus, so you might regard it as having HIP leanings.

I learned to love the piece from an old EMI mono recording with the Geraint Jones singers -- that was available in an EMI baroque choral music 2-fer a few years ago.

Frank Decolvenaere (Praetorius) wrote (July 26, 2003):
< Thomas Wood wrote: I've always liked the recording on Decca Jubilee with Philip Ledger, the Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields and the the Choir of King's College Cambridge -- coupled with CPE Bach's Magnificat. But the recording uses an all-male chorus, so you might regard it as having HIP leanings.

I learned to love the piece from an old EMI mono recording with the Geraint Jones
singers -- that was available in an EMI baroque choral music 2-fer a few years ago. >
The Geraint Jones Bach Magnificat* was issued in mono only on a Seraphim LP, but a stereo master exists (it was issued on a stereo r-to-r tape) and it was issued in (real) stereo on an HMV [record store] Classics CD**. Stlylish performance (for the time, ca. 1955/6, in no small part probably due to the participation of Thurston Dart); still one of my my favorite recordings, another being Karl Richter/Munich Bach Orchestra and Chorus on DG Galleria 419466 [and in the Richter big box-o'-Bach DG Archiv 463701] with (and despite the contributions of) the infamous Hertha Töpper.

_____________________________________________
* Ilse Wolf soprano, Helen Watts alto, Richard Lewis tenor, Thomas Hemsley bass, Edward Selwyn oboe [d'amore?], Gareth Morris & Edward Walker flutes, Ambrose Gauntlett 'cello, Thurston Dart harpsichord, Alan Harverson organ, Geraint Jones Singers and Orchestra.

** HMV 5 72339 2, coupled with Muti/Philharmonia Vivaldi Gloria and Ledger/Kings College/English Ch. Orch. Handel Zadok the Priest and My heart is

Thomas Wood wrote (July 26, 2003):
[To Frank Decolvenaere] That's great news. Thanks! That recording is a sentimental favorite of mine.

David Hurwitz (July 24, 2003):
[To Marcus Maroney] Barenboim is terrific, but the reason is largely because he anticipates much of the HIP approach with his swift tempos and brilliant trumpets. So it sort of depends on what exactly it is that you want in your non-HIP version! The current coupling, the Faure Requiem, is rather less interesting that the Bruckner Te Deum with which the Bach originally appeared.

A. Brain wrote (July 25, 2003):
< Marcus Maroney wrote:
Bernstein on Sony - definitely interesting, but of the soloists I'm only familiar with Jennie Tourel, who doesn't really do much for me either way. >
By all means, get the Bernstein for the great Russell Oberlin, a countertenor back in the days when they weren't all over the place. And Oberlin did not make too many records, as the voice was not all the rage back then as it is today.

'50s countertenors included Oberlin and Alfred Deller, and that's about it. Unless you count pop groups like "Little Anthony and the Imperials" or "Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers".

Richard Bernas wrote (July 25, 2003):
[To Marcus Maroney] Münchinger has excellent soloists and you may well find it on a single Decca Ovation CD. Richter's is very solid and largely well sung; though generic objections to Hertha Töpper have been raised above, the other singers include Maria Stader and DF-D, and the chorus singing is brilliant, enthusiastic and fresh.

Personally the modern instrumen performance I like most at the moment is Peter Schreier's with Barbara Bonney heading a good if not outstanding solo team and great choral work from RIAS. Like Munchinger, its buried in a multi-disc tombstone but a bit of hunting around should find the original single disc issue.

Simon Roberts wrote (July 25, 2003):
< Marcus Maroney wrote: I'm looking to buy a non-HIP recording. The ones I see at towerrecords.com are:
Summerly on Naxos (probably not). >
Isn't it HIP?

< Popp/Baker/Tear/Hemsley cond. Barenboim on EMI - I love Popp's voice, but am not a fan of Baker or Tear. >
You may want to give it a try anyway; to these ears Tear's unlovely, baritone-ish voice rather suits his aria, and Baker's at her best (which may make her even more unappealing to you, I suppose). Barenboim's conducting is exciting, and fast (thus, if fast is a HIP feature you're trying to avoid, this may not work) but not always (the slow grand bits are slow and grand), and even when he is the performance manages not to sound trivialized or small scale (the performing forces sound pretty large. "Fecit potentiam" is thrillingly realized (after this performance, most tenor entries in their florid "fecit" sound feeble), the slow section at the end lump-in-throat inducing (the tenor line at "sua" especially), as is the start of the last movement. This would be my choice for a non-HIP Magnificat by a wide margin.

< Münchinger on Decca - I love Elly Ameling - looks like this only comes >in a big box, though. Are any of the other performances worth the money? >
The SMP probably is, but the Magnificat sounds rather ordinary after Barenboim's. This used to be available separately on a mid-priced di. Is that out of print?

< The Sixteen on Linn. >
That's HIP, surely?

< Marriner on EMI (this comes in an interesting-looking EMI box w/ some other settings by C.P.E. Bach, Charpentier, and Schubert, among others). >
This is very good, but with its light textures, smally scale and bouncy manner it may seem too close to HIP - you might as well go whole hog and get Gardiner or Herreweghe, unless all you're trying to avoid is the sound of period instruments.

< Richter on DG. >
Stodgy and rhythmically deadly square/even, though in the trumpet and drum bits they kick up a fairly exciting racket. Worth listening to once for the hilarious singing of the alto in "Et exsultavit," the only reason I keep it around.

< Bernstein on Sony - definitely interesting, but of the soloists I'm only familiar with Jennie Tourel, who doesn't really do much for me either way. >
She does a lot for me in a negative way.... I have no idea why Bernstein was so attracted to her. Of those you list which I've heard this is the farthest removed from HIP (despite his curious use of a countertenor) - big, slow, grand and "romantic." I'm not wild about his soloists, and the choir is coarse, but I find the results make an interesting foil for the others I keep around (same goes for Ormandy's Easter Oratorio that fills it out).

< Corboz on Apex (I'm guessing probably not). >
I agree with your guess. Pretty anonymous. Barenboim does something fairly similar ten times better.

Marcus Maroney wrote (July 26, 2003):
< Simon Roberts wrote:
<< I'm looking to buy a non-HIP recording. The ones I see at towerrecords.com are:
Summerly on Naxos (probably not). >>
Isn't it HIP? >
I'm not quite sure - it says with the "Northern Chamber Orchestra". Most of the recordings with this group look like they could be period,but they've also recorded Rodrigo, Rawsthorne and Stravinsky, among others...

<< Popp/Baker/Tear/Hemsley cond. Barenboim on EMI - I love Popp's voice, but am not a fan of Baker or Tear. >>
< You may want to give it a try anyway; >
This sounds like what I'll seek out, based on various postings here.

<< The Sixteen on Linn. >>
< That's HIP, surely? >
Yes, my mistake - Ensemble L'Armonia e L'Inventione certainly sounds like a HIP group's name :)

<< Marriner on EMI (this comes in an interesting-looking EMI box w/ some other settings by C.P.E. Bach, Charpentier, and Schubert, among others). >>
< This is very good, but with its light textures, smally scale and bouncy manner it may seem too close to HIP - you might as well go whole hog and get Gardiner or Herreweghe, unless all you're trying to avoid is the sound of period instruments. >
I have Herreweghe and Kuijken for HIP - I much prefer the Herreweghe. Pregardien is unusually anonymous in his arias, and Peter Lika has a silly gallumphing way with his aria. I think all the soloists on the Herreweghe are excellent.

I guess what I'm searching for in a non-HIP is a female alto, larger chorus, and warmer string sound.

<< Bernstein on Sony >>
< Of those you list which I've heard this is the farthest removed from HIP (despite his curious use of a countertenor) - big, slow, grand and "romantic." I'm not wild about his soloists, and the choir is coarse, but I find the results make an interesting foil for the others I keep around (same goes for Ormandy's Easter Oratorio that fills it out). >
I might get this one just to hear it.

Thanks to everyone for your input!

Riccardo Nughes wrote (July 25, 2003):
< Münchinger on Decca - I love Elly Ameling - looks like this only comes in a big box, though. Are any of the other performances worth the money? >
The single CD featuring also 2 Cantatas (Decca Ovation) is one of the few non-HIP recordings present in my collection. Only regret is the bad Latin diction of the singers.

Johannes Roehl wrote (July 25, 2003):
[To Riccardo Nughes] I am pretty sute, that this is not 'bad' diction, but rather 'German' than 'Italian' pronounciation of Latin. For example 'ci' as 'tsi' rather than 'tshi' etc. I have no idea how Bach's choristers pronounced their Latin...

Riccardo Nughes wrote (July 25, 2003):
[To Johannes Roehl] No, it's more an "English-Latin", where, e.g, "Beata me dixit" is sung with the "e" read as it was English (for a correct Latin diction it should be read, by an English-speaker, as an "a"). However I don't want to be pedantic!

An anecdote : I attended some years ago at a concert featuring Gerard Lesne. After Charpentier's Lecons de Tenebre sung in French-Latin (something terrible for my ears, but historically correct) he sung a Caldara Latin Motet with a perfect diction. This is what I call to be a serious performer!

DelMarva LaPoule wrote (July 25, 2003):
< Marcus Maroney wrote: Bernstein on Sony - definitely interesting, but of the soloists I'm only familiar with Jennie Tourel, who doesn't really do much for me either way. >
A mannered, weighty reading with a creepy countertenor. Save your money.

It's a shame that the Ristenpart isn't available.

A. Brain wrote (July 26, 2003):
<< Marcus Maroney wrote: Bernstein on Sony - definitely interesting, but of the soloists I'm only familiar with Jennie Tourel, who doesn't really do much for me either way. >>
< DelMarva LaPoule wrote A mannered, weighty reading with a creepy countertenor. Save your money. >
What's this? The better the countertenor the "creepier"? Oberlin sounds to me much better than some of the countertenors who are practically household words today.

Perhaps you just don't like countertenors?

It is rather "weighty", but this was 1959. In fact, I am wondering if Bernstein's was the first stereo recording of this piece.

DelMarva LaPoule wrote (July 26, 2003):
< A. Brain wrote: What's this? The better the countertenor the "creepier"? >
Hell, yeah!

< Oberlin sounds to me much better than some of the countertenors who are practically household words today. Perhaps you just don't like countertenors? >
They make my skin crawl. Yes, all of them. One of the most reptilian, discomfiting and unmusical timbres in Western music - - along with Toscanini conducting Mozart and a few others I shall refrain from mentioning. You're welcome.

< It is rather "weighty", but this was 1959. In fact, I am wondering if Bernstein's was the first stereo recording of this piece. >
There was a Prohaska, but I am not certain it was stereo.

Jon Alan Conrad [Department of Music, University of Delaware] wrote (July 26, 2003):
< Marcus Maroney wrote: Münchinger on Decca - I love Elly Ameling - looks like this only comes in a big box, though. Are any of the other performances worth the money? >
This would be my first-choice non-HIP (or maybe any) Magnificat. For a few years Munchinger had a first-rate Bach quartet (given his stylistic terms) in Ally Ameling, Helen Watts, Werner Krenn, and Tom Krause.

The Amazon listing isn't very helpful about the full cast, so let me just say that this is basically the lineup for most of these works. The Christmas Oratorio was one of the first of these recordings, before they're found their tenor, and has Peter Pears in that role (I seem to remember it also had a different alto: Marga Hoffgen?). The Matthew Passion was about the same time, and has Pears as Evangelist, plus Fritz Wunderlich!! doing the tenor arias. The Mass and Magnificant both need a second soprano, respectively Yvonne Minton and Hanneke van Bork. And the John Passion was the last of these to be made (not issued on LP in the US), and for whatever reason made several changes in the lineup: Julia Hamari as alto, Werner Hollweg and I think Dieter Ellenbach as tenors, and Walter Berry as bass.

Of these, the Magnificat and Easter Oratorio are splendid. The Matthew Passion is also highly competitive. I remember liking the Christmas Oratorio well enough at the time, but the solo quartet is certainly not as gorgeous as the contemporaneous Richter (Janowitz, Ludwig, Wunderlich, Crass). I never heard the St. John. The Mass is hurt (more than the other works, to my remembering ears) by rather woolly choral singing.

< The Sixteen on Linn. >
This would be HIP, no?

Simon Roberts wrote (July 26, 2003):
< Jon Alan Conrad wrote: This would be myfirst-choice non-HIP (or maybe any) Magnificat. For a few years Munchinger had a first-rate Bach quartet (given his stylistic terms) in Ally Ameling, Helen Watts, Werner Krenn, and Tom Krause.

The Amazon listing isn't very helpful about the full cast, so let me just say that this is basically the lineup for most of these works. The Christmas Oratorio was one of the first of these recordings, before they're found their tenor, and has Peter Pears in that role (I seem to remember it also had a different alto: Marga Höffgen?). >
No, that's Watts too.


J.S. Bach Magnificat in D Major

Aravind Ayyar wrote (August 26, 2003):
I'd like to solicit opinions on the Ton Koopman/Erato disc of Bach's Magnificat (currently coupled with the Easter Oratorio), and/or other recommended alternatives. I have no strong preferences between the HIP and non-HIP styles, so long as the virtues of a particular performance are unique and compelling.

Many thanks in advance.

Thomas Wood wrote (August 26, 2003):
[To Aravind Ayyar] It's actually quite a fine recording, although not an exciting one. The balances in the opening chorus between the various instrumental groups and voices are managed with remarkable intelligence. And while every detail seems to be in place, the recording is more tidy than stirring (but the tenor solo "Deposuit" is weak and watery and a definite letdown).

The Gardiner Magnificat on Philips remains my favorite. It's still one of his most sharp and daring Bach recordings. Herreweghe on Harmonia Mundi is also good, but like Koopman, rather tidy.

Simon Roberts wrote (August 26, 2003):
[To Thomas Wood] I agree across the board, but would note that (to these ears, anyway) Herrreweghe has a far superior alto soloist to Gardiner's and suggest that if the original poster wants a different, non-HIP recording for contrast he try Barenboim's on EMI.



Continue on Part 4


Magnificats BWV 243 & BWV 243a: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | BWV 243a | Individual Movements
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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Systematic Discussions: BWV 243 | BWV 243a
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BWV 243 - E. Haïm | BWV 243 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 243a - T. Hengelbrock | BWV 243 - P. McCreesh | BWV 243 - J. Rifkin | BWV 243 - H. Rilling | BWV 243 - R. Shaw | BWV 243 - M. Suzuki | BWV 243a - P. Herreweghe

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