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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 in D major BWV 243
Magnificat in E flat major BWV 243a
General Discussions - Part 8

Continue from Part 7

Discussions in the Week of December 27, 2015 (4th round)

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 27, 2015):
Week of December 27, 2015: Magnificat BWV 243 & 243A

BWV 243, Magnificat in D major
BWV2 43a, Magnificat in E flat major


Links to texts, translations, scores, recordings and earlier discussions:


(E Flat Major) 1st performance: December 25, 1723 ­ Leipzig
(D Major) 1st performance: 1732-1735 ­ Leipzig


Critical attention has always focused on the second D major version of the Magnificat as the definitive version, and the Christmas interpolations have been all but ignored as annoying barnacles forced on the work. In fact, Bach very carefully crafts the interpolations to fit the canticle. On the other hand, the symmetrical unity of the Magnificat proper suggests that Bach may have preconceived his setting before he came to Leipzig where he found that the interpolations were traditional. The removal of these tropes in the second version has been viewed as a vast improvement. More likely is the possibility that Bach reused the D major setting on an occasion other than Christmas when there were no additions: Easter and Pentecost both usually employed the festival orchestra with trumpets. The D major Magnificat remains one of Bach¹s most popular works and provides a complete microcosm of every vocal species he used in his oeuvre. And all in under half an hour!


The Magnificat was sung daily at afternoon Vespers as it was in the Catholic rite. (See below for Musical Sequence for Vespers of Christmas Day). On weekdays and most Sundays, it was sung to Luther¹s chorale version, Meine Seele Erhebt den Herrn. On festival days (presumably Christmas, Easter andPentecost) it was sung in Latin. Ironically, it was the Lutheran church which continued the late medieval practice of troping or farcing (= stuffing) the Latin texts with additional music in Latin or German. The Catholic reforms after the Council of Trent abolished all of these so-called ³abuses.² Praetorius wrote several settings of the Magnificat with interpolations of Christmas chorales.

Schütz's mid-17th century setting from Dresden is typical:

1. Magnificat
2. Et exultavit
3. Qui respexit
A. Wir Christen Leut
4. Quia fecit mihi magna
5. Et Misericordia
6. Fecit Potnetiam
7. Deposuit Potentes
B. Lobet Gott, ihr Christen
8. Esurientes
9. Suscepit Israel
10. Sicut locutus est
C. In Dulci Jubilo
11. Gloria Patri
12. Sicut erat in principio
Paul McCreesh’s reconstruction of the Dresden Vespers can be heard at:
The spectacular Magnificat with Christmas Interpolations can be heard at 48:30

Bach¹s predecessor, Johann Kuhnau set the pattern which Bach followed. He took four Latin movements from his Christmas cantata and inserted them into his Magnificat. Bach used the same texts in the same position. The sources of these movements are unknown. They do not appear in any other works by Bach. The old-fashioned style of the first three, A-C, might suggest that Bach borrowed them from other composers:

2. Et exultavit
A. Vom Himmel Hoch
3. Quia respexit/Omnes generationes
4. Quia fecit mihi magna
B. Freut euch jubileret
5. Et Misericordia
6. Fecit Potentiam
C. Gloria in Excelsis
7. Deposuit Potentes
8. Esurientes
D. Virga Jesse Floruit
9. Suscepit Israel
10. Sicut locutus est
11. Gloria Patri
12. Sicut erat in principio

Kuhnau: Magnificat in C Major with Christmas Interlpolations {Bach’s direct model):


[Sources: Wolff, Terry, Stiller, Leaver & Williams. Terry & Wolff omit the opening responses by Demantius which are in the Vopelius Neue Leipziger Gesangbuch.

Bells are rung at 1:15
The Stadtpfeifer are in attendance to play in motets and perhaps congregational chorales.
Prelude before Motet
[The organ began to play only when the service began after the opening bell.
Organ music did not accompany the congregation coming into the church]
Motet: Choices include:
‘Cum Natus Esset Jesus:
Hodie Christus Natus Est² (Gabrieli)
Surgite Pastores

Deus in Adjutorium/Domine ad Adjuvandum - plainsong
6-voice polyphony - Christoph Demantius
from Vopelius ³Neue Leipziger Gesangbuch².

Chorale Prelude before Cantata:
³Meine Seele Erhebt Den Herrn² (?) BWV 648, 733?


Chorale Prelude on Hymn de Tempore:
³Vom Himmel Hoch² (BMV 701?)
Or ³Vom Himmel Kam der Engel Schaar²
Or ³Lobt Gott,ihr Chirsten² (BMV 608, 732, 732?)
Congregational Hymn of Season (de tempore)
³Vom Himmel Hoch²
Or ³Vom Himmel Kam der Engel Schaar²
Or ³Lobt Gott,ihr Christen²

Psalm 2 ³Warum toben die Heiden² [or before Hymn de Tempore?]
Settings by Schütz. Schein & Praetorius available
Link: Schütz:
Chorale- Prelude on ³Ein Kindelein So Löbelich² (BWV 719?)
Pulpit Hymn: ³Ein Kindelein So Löbelich²
Collect: chanted in Latin
Polyphonic responses from Vopelius
Benediction: chanted in German

Canticle: Magnificat in Latin
Christmas interpolations:
A. after Et exultavit: Vom Himmel Hoch
B. after Quia fecit mihi magna: Freut euch jubileret
C. after Fecit Potentiam: Gloria in Excelsis
D. after Esurientes: Virga Jesse Floruit

Responsory, Collect & Benediction
Polyphonic responses from Vopelius
Choral Prelude on ³Nun Danket² (BWV 657?)
Congregational Hymn: ³Nun Danket²
Link: )1:40)

[There was no music after the service as the congregation left the church]


Discussions in the Week of July 2, 2017 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (June 29, 2017):
Visitation Feast, Magnificat, BWV 243, Part 1

(This article originally appeared in the the Yahoo Bach Cantatas Group, July 2, 2016, as “Visitation of Mary Feast: Magnificat, BWV 243a: Intro.” (

On the heels — or in the footsteps — of the Feast of John the Baptist on June 24, came the other Christological observance of the incarnation/conception of Jesus Christ, the Feast of the Visitation of Mary on July 2. Scarcely one-month into his new tenure as Leipzig church cantor and city music director, Bach found that the benchmark 6th Sunday after Trinity and the Feast of the Visitation of Mary fell on the same day, July 2, 1723. Since cantors/music directors were required to present festival music and since this feast was of particular importance to the Leipzig churches, Bach literally pulled out all the stops, presenting two celebratory works. Bach presented Weimar Cantata BWV 247, “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben” (Heart and mouth and deed and life), expanded to two parts with new recitatives and and an chorale chorus closing both parts, now called “Jesu, joy of man’s desiring.” Bach also may have presented his Latin setting of Mary’s canticle, Magnificat anima mea Dominum (My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, Luke 1:46), in the initial E-flat Major setting, BWV 243a, minus the four Christmas song interpolations found almost six months later in the Christmas Day vesper service at the Nikolaikirche.*
*See Andreas Glöckner, “Bachs Es-Dur-Magnificat BWV 243a — eine genuine Weinachtsmusik?”, Bach-Jahrbuch, 89 (2003), 37-45.

Details of the 17Visitation feast performance of the Magnificat -- which alternates concerted choruses and intimate arias and was Bach’s first Latin music and major vocal work composed in Leipzig -- are only now coming to full light. It was a truly festive occasion, with Bach directing his Thomas Choir and a full orchestra of trumpets and drums, four woodwind instruments and strings. For this Magnificat production, Bach expanded his choir to five voices with two soprano parts, a practice he relished but employed only on special occasions.1 Cantata 147 would have been most appropriate during communion while the Magnificat, BWV 243a, using the Marian feast day’s Gospel text, Luke 1:46-55, Mary’s Canticle, would have been appropriate before the sermon on the gospel at the early main service. Later, at the other main Leipzig church, the vesper service would include the cantata before the sermon and the Magnificat after the sermon.2

Magnificat movements, scoring, text, key, meter (Latin text and Francis Browne English translation):

1. Chorus [SSATB; Tromba I-III, Timpani, Flauto traverso I/II, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: Magnificat anima mea Dominum.”(My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.).
2. Aria [Soprano II; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.” (and my spirit has exulted in God my saviour).
3. Aria [Soprano I; Oboe d'amore I, Continuo]: “Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae; /ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent” (because he has regarded the lowly state of his slavegirl; / for look! from now on [they]will say that I am blessed).
4. Chorus [SSATB; Flauto traverso I/II, Oboe d'amore I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Omnes generationes.” (every generation.)=.
5. Aria [Bass, Continuo]: “Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, / et sanctum nomen eius.” (because he who is mighty has done great things for me, / and holy is his name.).
6. Aria (Duet) [Alto, Tenor; Flauto traverso I e Violino I all' unisono, Flauto traverso II e Violino II all' unisono, Viola, Continuo]: “Et misericordia a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.” (and his mercy [continues ] from generation to generation for those who fear him.).
7. Chorus [SSATB; Tromba I-III, Timpani, Flauto traverso I/II, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo: “Fecit potentiam in brachio suo, dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.” (He has made known the power of his arm, scattered those who are arrogant in the thoughts of their heart.).
8. Aria [Tenor; Violini all' unisono, Continuo]: “Deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles.” (He has put down the mighty from their seats [of power] and raised up those who are lowly.).
9. Aria [Alto; Flauto traverso I/II, Continuo]: “Esurientes implevit bonis et divites dimisit inanes.” (The hungry he has filled with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.).
10. Aria (Terzetto) [Sopranos I and II, Alto; Oboe I/II all' unisono, Organo e Violoncelli senza, Violone e Bassoni]: “Suscepit Israel puerum suum recordatus misericordiae suae.” (He has taken under his protection Israel his boy, and remembered his mercy.).
11. Chorus [SSATB, Continuo]: “Sicut locutus est ad Patres nostros, / Abraham et semini eius in saecula.” (in accordance with what he said to our fathers, / to Abraham and to his seed for ever.).
12. Chorus [SSATB; Tromba I-III, Timpani, Flauto traverso I/II, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Organo e Continuo]: “Gloria Patri, gloria Filio,/ gloria et Spiritui Sancto! /Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper / et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.” (Glory to the Father, glory to the Son / glory also to the Holy Spirit! / As it was in the beginning and [is] now and always / and throughout ages of ages./ Amen.).

This nearly half-hour balanced work in 12 concise movements has five choruses strategically and traditionally placed: Mvt. 1. “Magnificat anima mea,” Mvt. 4. “Omnes generationes” (every generation), Mvt. 7, “Fecit potentiam in brachio suo” (He has made known the power of his arm); and Mvts. 10-12), “Suscepit Israel” (He has taken under his protection Israel), “Sicut locutus est” (in accordance with what he said).3 Four choruses are scored for SSATB (Mvt. 10 is for SSA), and the opening, closing (Mvt. 12) and central (Mvt. 7) are score for tutti ensemble. Observing tradition, Bach sets each verse as a separate movement, while varying the scoring so that the tutti choruses “form pillars that surround pairs of solo movements” (Nos. 2-3, 5-6, 8-9) while the final three choruses (Mvt. 10-12) “show a progressive buildup of required forces,” observes Richard D. P. Jones in The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, Volume II: 1717-1750.4

Another Bach trademark is the use of instrumental cantus firmus intonation found in the Magnificat motet-like chorus, “Suscepit Israel” (Mvt. 10, SSA, 2 oboes [or trumpet], cello, continuo). Bach began the chorale trope as early as 1708 in the Mühlhausen town council chorus Cantata BWV 71, “Gott ist mein König” (God is my king, Psalm 74:12), which Bach labeled “Mottetto” in stile antico, says Daniel Melamed.5 In the Magnificat Bach uses imitative voices with a bassetto accompaniment technique (see Melamed Ibid.: 137, and Jones Ibid.: 135).

In the chorus “Suscepit Israel puerum suum” (He has taken under his protection Israel his boy), the distinctive Magnificat Gregorian chant Aeolian psalm tone nine (tonus peregrinus) is sounded in long notes on the two oboes (BWV 243) or trumpet (BWV 243a). The bassetto use “refers to the divine quality of mercy (‘misericordia’) alluded to in the second part of the verse, suggests Jones (Ibid.), “recordatus misericordiae suae” (and remembered his mercy). The theme of mercy (Erbarmen), or compassion, is central to Mary’s canticle, expressed in the middle (no. 6) alto-tenor duet, “Et misericordia a progenie in progenies timentibus eum” (and his mercy [continues ] from generation to generation for those who fear him). The use of no basso continuo (bassetto) also is found in the Motet “Jesu, meine Freude” (Jesus, my joy), BWV 227, Mvt. 4 SSA chorus, “Denn das Gesetz des Geistes” (For the law of the spirit, Romans 8:2). The Magnificat succeeding movement (no. 11), “Sicut locutus est,” is a five-voice motet strict fugue recalling the Spruch or biblical-text motet (Melamed, Ibid.) in old-fashion alle breve 2/2 tempo.

Bach composed terse, focused music (there are no da-capo repeat movements) that “highlights the female voice” yet “employs gender typologies to convey the message of the biblical canticle,” observes Markus Rathey in Bach’s Major Vocal Works.6 Beyond the “large ensemble, massive concerto movements” are the “intimate arias [of the four voices), and a sweet, almost amorous duet [no. 6],” Rathey finds (Ibid.: 14). Essentially, Bach emphasizes the “dramatic potential” of the Magnficat text: “praise, the dichotomy between glory and humility, the scattering of the proud, the elevation of the lowly, and the expression of God’s mercy.”

Meanwhile, Bach employed a tradition found in Latin music, the repetition of music to a different text (called contrafaction) in the same mood in the choruses. The music of the opening “Magificat anima mea” is resounded in the closing, traditional vesper ending Lesser Doxology (no. 12), “Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper / et in saecula saeculorum. Amen” (As it was in the beginning and [is] now and always / and throughout ages of ages. Amen). Best known is Vivaldi’s opening and closing repeat of the same music in his Magnificat, RV 610, as well as in his Gloria,” RV 589 (1713), Greater Doxology Mass Ordinary setting. In his “Great Catholic” B-Minor Mass, BWV 232, Bach repeats the music of the “Gratias agimus tibi” (We give thee thanks) in the “Gloria” with the closing “Dona nobis Pacem” (Grant us peace). In addition, Bach set the Lesser Doxology in contrafaction transcription in his late (mid-1740s) Latin Christmas Cantata BWV 191, “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” borrowing two movements from the “Gloria” of the B-Minor Mass, “Domine Deus” becoming “Gloria patri,” and “Cum sancto spiritu” becoming “Secut erat.”

Here is summary Rathey’s discussion of each movement (Ibid.: 15-2) of Bach’s Magnificat: 1. Chorus tutti, “Magnificat anima mea,” the “representation of a magnificent ruler” in magnificent music; 2. Soprano aria, “Et exsultavit spiritus” (and my spirit has exulted,” Mary’s song praising God; 3. Soprano aria, “Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae” (because he has regarded the [my] lowly state), a contrasting personal song of humility; 4. Chorus tutti, “Omnes generationes” (every generation), collective humanity, joins in to conclude her praise; 5., Bass aria, “Quia fecit mihi magna” (because he who is mighty), another gender stereotype of the mighty in domination; 6. Alto-tenor duet, “Et misericordia a progenie in progenies” (and his mercy [continues ] from generation to generation), divine mercy as an expression of divine 12/8 love dance; 7. Chorus tutti, “Fecit potentiam” (He has made known the power), the five tutti voices join in a song of power; 8. Tenor aria, “Deposuit potentes” (He has put down the mighty); contrasting in music the mighty put down and the lowly elevated; 9. Alto aria, “Esurientes implevit” (The hungry he has filled), another spatial contrast of full and empty’ 10. Chorus SSA, “Suscepit Israel” (He has taken under his protection Israel), motet like collective prayer with the theme (psalm tone); 11. Chorus tutti, “Sicut locutus est” (in accordance with what he said), subject, and counter subject, “Abraham et semini eius in saecula” (to Abraham and to his seed for ever); 12. Chorus tutti, “Gloria Patri, gloria Filio, / gloria et Spiritui Sancto!” (Glory to the Father, glory to the Son / glory also to the Holy Spirit!); alternating imitative “Gloria” with homophonic “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” in 4/4; Chorus repeat of opening music in ¾, “Sicut erat in principio” (As it was in the beginning).

Marian Visitation Feast, Bach performances7

<<Beyond the Christmas Festival, Bach’s most active time presenting music in the church year in Leipzig may have been the Feast of the Visitation of Mary on July 2. Falling in mid-summer eight days after the Feast of John the Baptist in the midst of the austere omnes tempore early Trinity Time, these two de tempore events observing the life of Christ formed a sort-of festive “half-Christmas” when no other major civic events, such as seasonal fairs, were held. The Marian Visitation festival in particular had a wealthy Lutheran history and practice as a festival main service and in the weekend vesper service. Musical settings of Mary’s Magnificat canticle or “Song of Praise” also were performed in Leipzig in Bach’s time during 15 de tempore feast days of the three-day Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost major feasts, the three Marian fests (Purification, Annunciation, and Visitation) and the lesser feasts of New Year’s Day, Epiphany, Ascension, Trinity, John the Baptist, and St. Michael, says Günther Stiller in Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig.8

Bach responded with major Latin and German Italianate cantata versions of Mary’s Magnificat canticle, respectively the Latin Magnificat in E-Flat, BWV 243a, for the Visitation Feast, July 2, 1723, and for Christmas Day 1723 with four “laudes” interpolated songs; Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243, probably premiered on the Feast of the Visitation, July 2, 1733, and the German Lutheran Magnificat chorale Cantata BWV 10, “Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn” (My Soul magnifies the Lord), in his second Leipzig Visitation service of July 2, 1724. In addition, various other German settings of the Magnificat in Leipzig were presented or linked to Bach (Johann Kuhnau, Johann Mathesson, Georg Melchior Hofmann, Johann Ludwig Bach, Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel, Antonio Caldara) while later his sons – Friedemann, Emmanual and Johann Christian -- carried on his Magnificat musical tradition with his and their works.

The Canticles or Sacred Songs of Scripture as the basis for the Magnificat was established in Luther’s introductory preface to the section of biblical canticles that first appeared in the 1529 Gesangbuch, says Robin A. Leaver in Luther’s Liturgical Music: Principles and Implications.9 “The choice of the specific tone for each canticle was important because both text and tone undergirded the basic hermeneutic that Luther wanted the people who sang them to understand.”

Luther’s 1532 setting of “Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn”, as well as a 1532 setting of Luther’s melody to the German paraphrase of Benediction Psalm 67, “Gott sei uns gnädig und barmherzig” (May God be merciful and compassionate), fostered a tradition of vocal settings. The next major publication following the Klug Wittenberg hymnal of 1533, with a wide variety of canticles from both the Old and New Testaments which inspired Bach, was Johann Walther’s Magnificat octo tonorum of 1540 in Walther’s Sämtliche Werke SW 4. This collection of the first cantor of the Lutheran Church (1496-1570) consisted of eight settings for four voices (one for five voices) on the even numbered verses of the canticle in simple homophonic fa-bourdon style. Later in 1557 the settings were completed with the publication of Magnificat octo tonorum, SW 5, containing four, five, and sax-voice settings faa the even-numbered verses in Latin. Settings in the 5th, 7th, and 8th modes have complete settings of the Gloria Patri Lesser Doxology.

The development of the German Magnificat, “Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn,” is found in the extensive BCW article, “Chorales used in Bach’s Vocal Works.” The Use of the Chorale Melody by other composers includes: Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612): Meine Seele erhebt den Herren, 4-pt setting (1608); Michael Praetorius (1571-1621): Meine Seele erhebt den Herren, 4-pt. setting (1607); Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672): Meine Seele erhebt den Herren, Score and Parts; Tobias Zeutschner (1621-1675): Cantata: Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn Cantus à 13 ou 19; Werner Fabricius (1633-1679): Meine Seele erhebt for 9 voice parts; and Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706): Meine Seele erhebt den Herren as, 2 Chorale Preludes for Organ. In all, Schütz composed at four different vocal settings of the Song of Mary (SWV 344, 426, 468, 494 Schwanengesang), three in German and one, SWV 468, in Latin as Magnificat anima mea, sacred concerto.>>

Other Magnificats

Three other German Magnificat paraphrase cantatas have been linked to Bach. A setting possibly by Johann Mattheson, "Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn," libretto by Erdmann Neumeister, was performed in Leipzig on July 2, 1725, based on a surviving libretto book. It possibly was lead by Georg Balthasar Schott, music director of the progressive Leipzig New Church and Kuhnau's successor. Bach also was listed as the composer of two other German paraphrase cantatas now attributed to Georg Melchior Hoffmann (Telemann successor as music director at the Leipzig Neue Kirche, 1704-15). These two with unknown librettists and no known Leipzig performance dates are: tenor solo Cantata BWV 189, "Meine Seele rühmt und preist" (My soul extols and praises) with three repeat ABA arias, and BWV Anh. 21, "Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn," known as the "Little German Magnificat. Musical Context of Bach Cantatas, Motets& Chorales for Feast of Visitation of Mary, BCW

In addition, Bach’s predecessor, Johann Kuhnau, composed a Latin Magnificat in C Major. “Although Bach’s work differs radically from Kuhnau’s in every respect, Bach did adopt from Kuhnau’s work the text and style of the Christmas interpolations with which the Magnificat [BWV 243a] is troped,” says Dr. Andreas Bomba in the liner notes to the Helmut Rilling Bachakademie Edition, (see BCW,, scroll down to V-16, No. 73.

Works Bach May Have Performed on the Feast of the Visitation (July 2):10

+Magnificat in E-Flat Major, BWV 243a, 1723; double bill with Chorus Cantata BWV 147 "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben" (Heart and Mouth and Dand Life) (1723, Friday); repeats 1730 (Trinity 4) and 1735-40;
+Chorale Cantata BWV 10, "Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn" (1724, Fourth Sunday after Trinity), repeat 1740-47; double bill possible repeat of Magnificat in E-Flat Major, BWV 243a;
+Anonymous Cantata, "Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn (My soul magnifies the Lord, Neumeister libretto) (1725, Monday), music of Joahnn Mathesson;
+ Johann Ludwig Bach Cantata JLB-13, "Der Herr wird ein Neues im Lande erschaffen Judah" (As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah) (1726, Tuesday);
+Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243, ?July 2, 1733, no documentation of succeeding performance at Visitation;
+Two Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel cantatas from different church cycles, performed in 1736 and possibly 1737. On July 2, 1736, Bach performed Stölzel two-part cantata, "Groß sind die Werke des Herren" (Great are the works of the Lord, Psalm 111:2), with Part 2 beginning, "Ich freue mich in den Herrn" (I delight greatly in the Lord, Isaiah 61:10) from the cantata cycle "Das Namenbuch Christi," (Book of Names of Christ), using a Benjamin Schmolck text with chorales closing both parts.
+Antonio Caldara's <Magnificat> in D Major (Bach added two parts for violins in Movement No. 3, <Suscepit Israel puerum suum> (He protects Israel, his servant), BWV 1082, performed about 1739-42.

Bach's Sons and Magnificats

Three of Bach's sons were involved in Visitation/early Trinity Time music of their father or composed their own Magnificat settings:

1. Oldest son Friedemann did a partial parody of the opening chorus, "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben" (Herz und Mund kan sich nun laben), Cantata BWV 147a/1, as the third and concluding movement of a pasticcio Catechism Sermon Cantata, Fk. 77, performed in Halle in 1752 (David Schulenberg, Music of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (New York: University of Rochester Press, 2010: 204). Friedemann apparently copied his father's music from the original version of Cantata 147, composed in Weimar in 1716 for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, since the scoring omits the two oboes added in Leipzig for Visitation 1723 (music printed in NBA KB I/28.2, Kantaten zu Marienfest II, e. Ute Wolf, 1995: 110ff). Friedemann also parodied the opening alto aria (slumber song) of Cantata BWV 170, "Vergnugte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust" (Wie ruhig ist doch meine Seele), originally composed in 1726 for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity. Friedemann composed the music for the second (middle movement) as a recitative. Friedemann presented this music possibly in September 1752 in connection with a Catechism Prayers service, says Peter Wollny.11

2. Youngest son Johann Christian Bach's Magnificat 4 in C major, CW E22, dates to 1760 when he was an organist in Milan composing music for Catholic services following his conversion. His work is published as Hänssler Verlag 38.101 (no date) and is catalogued as T 207/3, the last of three Magnificats in C Major. A YouTube recording is Second-oldest son Carl Philipp Emmanuel conducted in a benefit Lenten concert in late March 1786 in Hamburg his arrangement of the <Credo> from his father's <Mass in B Minor>, and three of his own works after intermission: a symphony, a < Magnificat> and the famous setting of <Heilig> (Sanctus). He also possessed both versions of Sebastian's <Magnficat," BWV 243(a). C.P.E. Bach Magnificat in D Major, Wq 215 (1786); Hänssler Verlag HE 33.215], Recording:


1 The exceptions using SSATB are the Weimar Easter Cantata BWV 31 opening chorus, “Der Himmel lacht! die Erde jubilieret” (The heavens laugh! The earth shouts with joy), the opening St. Matthew Passion chorus, “Komm, ihr Tochter “ Come, ye daughters) with the chorale “O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross” (O man, bewail thy great sins), the later chorale motet, “Jesu, meine Freude,” BWV 227, and the B Minor Mass choruses “Kyrie,” “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” “Cum Sancto Spiritu,” and “Credo in unum Deum.”
2 Cited on line in,_BWV_243a. A year later Bach composed for the feast of the Visitation the chorale cantata Meine Seel erhebt den Herren, BWV 10, based on the German Magnificat. The musicologist Alberto Rizzuti compared the two settings which were possibly performed in one service on 2 July 1724 ["One Verse, Two Settings, and Three Strange Youths," 2013, Online sources (PDF).
3 Magnificat, BWV 243a, BCW Details,, and Discography, Score (BGA), References: BGA: XI.1 Magnificats, Wilhelm Rust, 1862), NBA KB II/3 (Magnificats, Alfred Dürr 1955), Latin Church Music (BWV Anh. 21, 30; NBA KB II/9, Kirsten Beisswinger, 2000); Bach Compendium BC E 14. Magnificat, BWV 243, Latin text and Francis Browne English Translation, BCW
4 Jones, The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, Volume II: 1717-1750, “Music to Delight the Spirit” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013: 134).
5 See Daniel Melamed, Bach J. S. Bach and the German motet (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995: 15f and 29. Also see his extensive “Bibliography” 214-18. Such tropes may be considered a form of transcription often using text and chorale melody.
6 Rathey, Bach’s Major Vocal Works: Music Drama, Liturgy.(New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016: 5).
7 The material below is found in Cantata 10, BCML Discussion Part 5
8 Stiller, Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical, ed. Robin A, Leaver (St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing, 1985: 56f).
9 Leaver, Luther’s Liturgical Music (Grand Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007: 260ff).
10 BCW, "Dates in Bach's Lifetime, "Mariä Heimsuchung" (Feast of Visitation of Mary),

11 Recent research of Wollny, “Wilhelm Friedemann Bach’s Halle performances of cantatas by his father,” in Bach Studies 2, ed. Daniel R. Melamed (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995: 211).


To Come: Magnificat BWV 243, Notes on the text, Provenance; Cantata BWV 10, German Magnificat, Rathey commentary, Notes on the text.

William Hoffman wrote (July 2, 2017):
Visitation Feast, Magnificat, BWV 243, Part 2

Bach’s first work for a Christological cycle, the Magnificat in E-flat Major, BWV 243a, for the Visitation of Mary Feast, July 2, 1723, also was the culmination of the incarnation/conception beginning phase of the life of Jesus Christ. Mary’s Song of Praise and Thanksgiving is a summation of Old Testament basic teachings and prophecy. This 30-minute, Latin-texted liturgical work of varied styles and forms in 12 concise movements is a setting of Luke’s Gospel canticle (1:46-55) with five-voice chorus (SSATB) and full orchestra of winds, brass and strings. It was created for the afternoon vesper services during feast days that also included a repeat of the morning main service cantata musical sermon. In 1723 the vesper cantata was BWV 147, now known as “Jesu, joy of man’s desiring.” Possibly in 1724 Cantata 147 was part of a double bill with Bach’s setting of Luther’s German Magnificat in chorale Cantata BWV 10, “Meine Seele erhebet den Herrn” (My soul doth magnify the Lord).1

Bach’s Magnificat could have been introduced as early as the festive vesper service beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday, 2 July 1723, either at the St. Thomas or St. Nicholas Church after the sermon onthe day’s Epistle, Isaiah 40:1-5 (Voice in the wilderness). Cantata 147 was presented after the opening hymn of this service of the word, without communion. Appropriate for vespers at major feasts, Bach’s Magnificat probably was repeated in 1728-30, and 1733 and may have appeared again on a double bill with festive Cantata 147 when the latter was repeated in 1736-40.

Magnificat Text, References

The text of the Magnificat is found at Luke 1:46-55 (KJV): “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.”

Mary’s canticle is a hymn of praise to God’s blessing her as a humble woman, similar to Miriam, Deborah, Judith, and most importantly, Hannah (1 Sam. 2:1-10). It begins with a simple statement of a personal spiritual relationship between her and the Lord God that her soul magnifies the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God the Saviour. Her song is an expression of humility and gratitude for her role as the mother of the coming Jesus in the first half invocation. In the second half prophecy, her reversal language affirms those who are low, fear the Lord, and hunger for good things, in contrast to the proud, mighty and rich. It concludes with the expectation of the fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham and his descendants as God’s servants in a restored Israel. It exemplifies Luke’s gospel theme that the Good News will come to those low and marginalized.

The model is Hannah’s Song of Thanksgiving (1 Samuel 2:1-10), to God granting her a child, particularly the first half alluded to in Mary’s Song. Hannah rejoices in the Lord, as does Mary (v.46), she also calls the Lord the Holy One (v.49b), and shuns the proud (v.51b), is raised up (v.52b), and hungers no more (v.53a). The psalm tradition of praise and thanks as well as comfort from Isaiah are found throughout. The opening (v.46) affirms Psalm 103:1, “Praise the Lord, O my soul.” The second verse (47), recalls Isaiah 61:10 in the soul’s joy at being clothed in salvation. The handmaiden image in verse 48a comes from the Hannah’s vow (v. 11) to give her child “unto the Lord.” Mary reflects on being blessed in verse 48b, which recalls the angel Gabriel’s greeting (Luke 1:28), “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women” . . . and Elizabeth, pregnant with John there Baptist, responding to Mary’s visit salutation (Luke 1:42b), “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” These two statements are the first half of the Roman Catholic Ave Maria (Hail Mary) recited at rosary. Mary’s gratitude (v.49) continues to reflect on Isaiah 61:10, and the first half of Mary’s Song (v.50) recalls Psalm 103:17, the Lord’s ever lasting love.

In the second half of her song, Mary refers (v.51) to Psalm 89:10 where the Lord scatters his enemies with a strong arm and puts down the proud, a reference to 2 Samuel 22:28). In the theme of Samuel the Lord, says Mary (v. 52), puts down the mighty while raising those of low degree (1:28 and 1:2:5b). The contrast continues in verse 53 when the Lord fills “the hungry with good things (Psalm 107:9) while sending the rich away empty, a reference again to 1 Samuel 2:5, “They that were full have hired out themselves for bread,” as barren Hannah is blessed with child. Help to Israel recalls Psalm 98:3 in verse 54. Mary’s song concludes (v.55) with references to Psalm 105:8-11, the covenant with Abraham and his descendants for a thousand generations the land of Canaan, with great blessing (Gen. 12:2-3), to the nations in his seed (Sirach 44:19-22).

Magnificat Background, Importance

The background and importance of the Magnificat are explored in the liner notes to Peter Dikjkstra's BR-Klassik 2011 recording.2 << Like the Psalms, the Magnificat, the canticle of Mary as told in the Gospel of Luke, is one of the most important liturgical texts in the Bible and has been set magnificently to music ever since the Renaissance. No less a person than Martin Luther stated: “It is right that this canticle should be kept in the Church!” Permission was even granted for it to be sung in Latin in the Reformed Church, certainly at Christmas, Easter, Whitsun and the Marian Feasts. For Johann Sebastian Bach, the freshly appointed Kantor of the Thomaskirche, this was an excellent opportunity to present himself to Leipzig for the first time with a large-scale work, and it was performed on either December 25, 1723 or as early as the Feast of the Visitation on July 2.

Like Handel, Bach pulls out all the stops here as far as skill is concerned; he may have wanted to highlight his conducting abilities at the same time. The work even surpasses Handel’s richness of tone: In addition to the choir, also five-part, Bach makes use of a truly spectacular orchestra with timpani, trumpets and transverse flutes. The opening movement can almost be termed a sparkling instrumental concerto with integrated choir sections. The central, richly-ornamented word “Magnificat” shines out resplendently against a backdrop that is truly overwhelming, while the inherently cheerful nature of the work is further enhanced by the solo movements. Mary’s humility in “Quia respexit humilita- tem”, for instance, is conveyed with great intensity by the characteristic sound of the oboe d’amore. All the movements are spanned by a vast arc of dramatic tension, with the emotional climax of the whole work directly at its centre: the duet “Et misericordia”. This unfolds as an elegiac lament in E minor, its despair further intensified by a series of chromatic progressions. At the very heart of it, the dark side of the festive main key is reached with a switch to D minor – a fine example of the sophistication in Bach’s musical architecture that only becomes evident later on. Bach is as fond as Handel of the bold and striking imagery used in baroque psalm settings: The “Fecit potentiam” with its triumphant battle music packs a mighty punch and, at the point where the proud of heart are “scattered”, the music is suddenly disrupted by a drama- tic pause. Like a psalm, the Magnificat also ends with the “Gloria Patri”. In a clever reference to the words in the text “Sicuterat in principio” (“As it was in the beginning”), Bach reverts here to the music from the opening, but he develops it far less monumentally than Handel. The introduction of the “Gloria Patri” shines out once more, however. Three times – according to Trinity – the choir conjures up a magnificent halo in space, a golden triptych of sublime and glorious sound.>>
Jörg Handstein Translation: David Ingram

Magnificat Purpose, Repertory, Versions

The purpose, repertory and two versions of Bach’s Magnificat are explored in John Butt’s liner notes to his 2015 recording with the Dunedin Consort.3 <<Bach had to perform a concerted setting of the Magnificat at Vespers (together with the service to celebrate the Visitation of Mary) several times a year. Indeed, it seems that he compiled a significant repertory of Magnificat settings by several composers to fulfill this purpose; his own Latin Magnificat is merely the most substantial of these. The first, E-flat version was, according to the research of Andreas Glöckner, most likely written for the Visitation service on 2 July 1723 (little more than a month after Bach’s first service at Leipzig). The connection with Christmas of the same year is established by the fact that the manuscript includes indications for four Christmas interpolations to be performed at specific points within the seof movements. Given that these pieces are appended at the end of the manuscript, it is clear that the Magnificat was first designed as a self- standing piece.

Some ten years later, possibly again for the Visitation service (which, in 1733 coincided with the end of the period of mourning for Elector Friedrich Augustus I), Bach produced a new version of the Magnificat, transposed down a semitone to D major. This version is the more well known, but there are several elements of the early version that were lost in the process of re-writing. Recorders, rather than the transverse flutes of the later version, accompany the ‘Esurientes’; a trumpet, rather than oboe, played the tonus peregrinus melody of the ‘Suscepit Israel’, and, at certain points in the earlier version, the harmonies are rather more pungent (e.g. the fermata chord just before the end of the chorus ‘Omnes generationes’). The difference in key also affects the layout of the string parts, in particular; this is most noticeable in the ‘Deposuit potentes’, where the opening scale is an octave lower in the violins and the open G string (the key note for this aria), the lowest note of the violin, is suitably employed. The triplet passages that appear three times between the block chord passages of the ‘Gloria’ were originally written without the sustained continuo notes that Bach added to the later version. These latter undoubtedly make the passages easier to sing, but the early version is arguably more exciting in the way that the vocalists are encouraged to direct their lines towards the next tutti passages. The Magnificat – in whichever version - is one of Bach’s most vivid choral works.

It contains such dramatic devices as the chilling harmonic depiction of the word ‘imagination’ (‘mente’) in the line ‘he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts’, and with its rapid alternation of choruses and arias (without da capos) it is also remarkably compact. The word painting is reminiscent of Bach’s very early cantatas, with sometimes startling changes of affect: for instance the dramatic interjection ‘Omnes generationes’ at the end of the ‘Quia respexit’. The return of the opening music for the ‘Sicut erat in principio’ (‘As it was in the beginning’) suggests that Bach was aware of a familiar pun in seventeenth-century Vesper settings.>> © John Butt, 2015

1724 Vesper: Magnificat, BWV 243a, Cantata 10

Those who attended the 1724 afternoon vesper service may have had experienced an”unusual constellation,” says Marcus Rathey in his “A Female Voice: Mary in Bach’s Magnificat Settings, BWV 243, and 10.” 4 “Some of them would have noticed the similarities between the two pieces: the staging of female humility, male power, and intimate love. This is only speculation, yet an intriguing one.” Other similarities, says Rathey (Ibid.: 33), include the use of the tones peregrines, in the Magnificat SSA aria (no. 10), “Suscepit Israel,” melody in the two oboes, and in Cantata 10 three times in Cantata 10 pure-hymn stanzas, opening chorus, “Meine Seel erhebt den Herren” (My soul praises the Lord), the alto-tenor duet (no.5), “Er denket der Barmherzigkeit” (He remembers his mercy), and the closing chorale (no. 7), “Lob und Preis sei Gott dem Vater und dem Sohn” (Glory and praise be to God the Father and to the Son). The ancient tone is alluded to in the soprano and bass arias (nos. 2 and 4), “Herr, der du stark und mächtig bist” (Lord, you who are strong and mighty), and “Gewaltige stößt Gott vom Stuhl” (God thrusts the mighty from the seat), respectively.

Three poetic arias in BWV 10/2, 4, 5 are musical ideas interpreted from the Magnificat [BWV 243/2, 5, 6], Rathey observes: “the soprano as the first solo voice to speak the praise of Mary (,, the forceful bass solo mediating God’s battle against the powerful rulers (,, and a love duet in which alto alto and tenor indulge harmoniously in divine love and mercy” (, Bach transcribed duet BWV 10/5 with the cantus firmus in the oboes and trumpet as an organ trio Schübler chorale, This adaptation could have been used as a prelude to a Visitation vesper services in the 1740s.

A musical summary of Bach’s Cantata 10 and its similarities to the Magnificat, BWV 243, is provided in Rathey’s study (Ibid.: 31ff): The opening chorus ( also in concerto style is more reflective than the Latin setting (; soprano aria (no.2, see music above) is a “celebration of bliss”; the bass aria (no.4, see music above) is a “typical operatic rage aria”; the alto-tenor aria (No.5, see music above), is a love duet and the “musical means are almost identical.”

Cantata 10, German Magnificat Setting

Bach’s Cantata BWV 10, “Meine Seele erhebet den Herrn” (My soul doth magnify the Lord), a paraphrase of Luther’s vernacular German Magnificat (, is unusual in several respects. First, it is the only paraphrase setting of the hymn in Bach’s unique chorale cantata form, in contrast to paraphrases of Luther’s text in different settings associated with Bach, most notably Melchior Hofmann’s Cantatas BWV Anh. 21, "Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn," known as the "Little German Magnificat,” and BWV 221, "Meine Seele rühmt und preist" (My soul extols and praises). A setting by Reinhard Keiser or Johann Mattheson, "Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn," libretto by Erdmann Neumeister, was performed in Leipzig on July 2, 1725.5 Further, the words of BWV 10 by an unknown librettist “make the biblical text more concrete, insert images, and also infuse it with a Lutheran theology of redemption,” says Rathey (Ibid.: 28).

Cantata 10 is a musical sermon with chorale stanzas as paraphrased recitatives and arias by an unidentified librettist.6 The 12 movements are summarized in headings of Melvin Unger’s Bach cantata handbook of biblical references:7 BWV 10, “Prophecy concerning the Messiah; Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, Magnificat” 1. “Mary as favored among women,” 2. “Thew holy, mighty God has blessed richly,” 3. “God helps lowly but scatters proud,” 4. God casts down proud, exalts lowly,” 5. “God remembers his mercy,” 6. “Promise to Abraham fulfilled,” 7. Doxology, “Praise to Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

As a musical sermon, the Cantata 10 text is grounded in references to the day’s readings, Epistle Isaiah 11:1-5 and Luke 1:39-56. The tenor recitative (no.3), expands on references to the original biblical text to emphasize the redemption theology. The movement begins, “Des Höchsten Güt und Treu / Wird alle Morgen neu / Und währet immer für und für / Bei denen, die allhier / Auf seine Hilfe schaun / Und ihm in wahrer Furcht vertraun.” (The goodness and faithfulness of the most high God / is new every morning / and lasts always for ever and ever / for those who here / look to his helpand trust him in sincere fear.). This is a reference to Lamentations 3:22-23 (KJV), “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.).

The original Luke 2:51 declares, “He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.” The librettist interprets this to mean: “Hingegen übt er auch Gewalt / Mit seinem Arm / An denen, welche weder kalt /Noch warm” (On the other hand he also uses force / with his own arm / on those who are neither cold / nor warm). The cold/warm is an allusion the Revelation 3:15, “ I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot (KJV).

Cantata 10 tenor recitative (no.6), “Was Gott den Vätern alter Zeiten / Geredet und verheißen hat” (What God to the fathers of old / has spoken and promised), “goes even further,” says Rathey. Following the first half paraphrases of God’s promise to Abraham, “the second half inserts the incarnation of Christ, the fight against Satan, God love as the foundation of his mercy, and finally the Lutheran keywords: Word of God, Mercy, and Truth,” observes Rathey. The text is: “Der Heiland ward geboren, / Das ewge Wort ließ sich im Fleische sehen, / Das menschliche Geschlecht von Tod und allem Bösen / Und von des Satans Sklaverei / Aus lauter Liebe zu erlösen; / Drum bleibt's darbei, / Dass Gottes Wort voll Gnad und Wahrheit sei.” (the saviour was born, / the eternal Word allowed himself to be seen in the flesh / to free the human race from death and all evil / and from Satan's slavery / out of pure love; / and so it remains / that God's word is full of grace and truth.” The new testament reference that the unknown librettists uses are from Acts 3:25, Ga. 4:4-7, Jn. 8:24, 1 Jn. 4:14, and Jn. 1:14, says Unger (Ibid.: 37).

This may be purely coincidental, but Cantata 10 has references also found in Cantata 30, ”Freue dich, erlöste Schar" (Rejoice, redeemed host), for the Feast of John the Baptist, probably 1738. Cantata 30 opening chorus says, “Rejoice in Zion’s tents, O redeemed multitude, referring to Israel as the “immovable tent” (Isaiah 33:20), the foundation and covenant. Cantata 10 second tenor recitative (no.6) tenor says, “Was Gott dem Abraham, / Als er zu ihm in seine Hütten kam, / Versprochen und geschworen, / Ist, da die Zeit erfüllet war, geschehen.” (What God to Abraham, / when he came to him in his huts [tents], promised and swore, / has happened, since the time was fulfilled). Here the references are to Heb. 11:8-9 (Abraham’s faith) and Acts 3:25, “Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.” The other reference in Cantata 30 is in the bass Benedictus recitative (no.7), to the oath (covenant) which God “swore to our father Abraham.”

The sermon given at the 2 July 1724 vesper service by either Bach’s St. Thomas pastor Christian Weise, or the Superintendent Salomon Dwelling at the Nikolaikirche can only one speculated. “The preacher might have highlighted Mary as a model of humility, as does Luther in his writings on her,” Rathey suggests (Ibid.: 33f). “He might also have talked about how Good demonstrates his strength and power in everyday life; and he might have expounded on the idea that God’s mercy, which is mentioned twice in the text for the Magnificat, is rooted deeply in his love for mankind. All of these aspects Bach had elaborated on own his ‘musical sermon[s]’.”

Luther retained the Catholic observance of the three Marian feasts of Visitation (July 2), Purification (February 2) and Annunciation (March 25), which were major feasts in Leipzig in Bach’s time, although Luther eschewed the veneration of the Virgin Mary and emphasized the christology in these feasts. In particular Luther treasured the biblical canticles as liturgy and the use of the related Latin texts and tones in the Lutheran chorales and services, says Robin A. Leaver in “Biblical Canticles.” 8

Emphasizing the power of the Holy Spirit and the distinction between Law and Gospel, between works and faith, Luther summarizes’s the Magnificat in his 1521 commentary (quoted in Leaver): “When the holy virgin experienced what great things God was working in her despite her insignificance, lowliness, poverty, and inferiority, the Holy Spirit taught her this deep insight and wisdom, that God his them kind of Lord who does nothing but exalt those of low degree and put down the might from their thrones, in short, break what is whole and make whole what is broken.”

Bach in Historical Context

Bach began the final decade of his life at another crossroads. He had spent much of the previous decade focusing on composing select major sacred vocal music in Latin liturgical works and feast day oratorios as well as sacred song collections, both for organ and voice for a Christological cycle while spending much of his other vocal energies on drama per musica for the Saxon court and instrumental keyboard collections. His last decade began with a potpourri of organ pieces, parodies for the court, and select revivals such as the St. Matthew Passion in 1742. Then, Bach turned to a summation of his art that culminated in further publications, instrumental studies and the “Great Catholic” B-Minor Mass.

Still the Leipzig cantor and music director, Bach had all the materials at hand to focus on major feast days such as the early summer convergence of the Feast of John at the Baptist on June 24 and the leading Marien Feast of the Visitation eight days later, which in 1740 fell on a Friday and then a Saturday, respectively. An essential part of the Catholic and Lutheran services in Bach’s time, the Magnificat was intoned during the Lutheran vespers after the sermon prayer and presented in concerted form on feast days. The order of the Lutheran vespers was:9 Organ Prelude, Hymn, Cantata (on feast days only), Hymn of the Day, Psalm, Lord’s Prayer, Hymn, Announcement of the Sermon, Hymn “Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend,” Epistle Reading, Sermon, Prayers, Magnificat, Responsory (Collect and Benediction), and Hymn, “Nun danket all Gott.” An organ postlude probably followed.

For the Baptist’s feast, Bach could have provided the following music: Organ Prelude, “Christ, Unser Herr, zum Jordan kamm,” BWV 686 from ClavierÜbung III; opening Hymn, “Christ Unser Herr sum Jordan dam,” BWV 280; Cantata BWV 7; Hymn of the Day, "Herr Christ der einige Gottes Sohn,” BWV 96/6; Psalm motet, “Benedicam Dominum”(Psalm 34:1-6), ?Andrea Gabrieli; Lord’s Prayer, “Vater Unser in Himmelreich,” BWV 416; Hymn, “Christ, Unser Herr, zum Jordan kamm,” BWV 176/6; Hymn, “Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wendt,” BWV 332; “Magnificat in C major,” BWV Anh 30/Anh III 167, ?Antonio Lott; Hymn, “Nun danket all Gott,” BWV 252; Postlude, “Christ, Unser Herr, zum Jordan kamm,” BWV 685.

For the Visitation feast, Bach could have provided the following music: Organ Prelude, "Meine Seel' erhebt den Herren,” BWV 648 (Schubler); Hymn, Cantata BWV 10, Hymn of the Day, "Meine Seel' erhebt den Herren,” BWV 324; Psalm motet, "Ecce tu Pulchra" (Song of Songs 1:14); Lord’s Prayer, “Vater Unser in Himmelreich,” BWV 683; pulpit Hymn "Nun freut euch lieben Christen gemein,” BWV 307; Hymn “Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend,” Magnificat, BWV 243; Hymn, “Nun danket all Gott,” BWV 252; Postlude, "Meine Seel' erhebt den Herren,” BWV 733.

Bach’s Magnificat, BWV 243, as well as his setting of the German Magnificat, chorale Cantata BWV 10, would be appropriate for any feast day vesper service since they refer to the text of Mary’s Song before Jesus’ birth at Christmas. “In Lutheran understanding, the Song of Mary (as Marian theology in general) is perceived from the perspective of Christological theology; and the Magnificat is thus a celebration of the incarnation,” says Rathey (Ibid.: 13).

Visitation Works’ Provenance, Distribution

The scores of both versions of the Magnificat appear in Emmanuel Bach’s 1790 estate catalogue, BWV 243 on P. 70 with parts among mostly various sacred other sacred pieces, and BWV 243a score on P. 72 following the “Great Catholic Mass” in B Minor. Emmanuel probably performed BWV 243a since Heinrich Michel copied parts in 1779. The BWV 243 score in Bach’s hand, dating to 1732 and 1735 (D-B Mus. ms. Bach P 39,, shows a provenance of J. S. Bach - C. P. E. Bach - C. F. G. Schwencke - G. Poelchau (1824) - BB (now Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz) (1841). BWV 243(a) BCW Details and Recordings, see BWV 243a score in Bach’s hand, dating to 1723 (D-B Mus. ms. Bach P 38,, has the same provenance. BWV 243(a) References are: BGA XI.1 (Wilhelm Rust 1862), NBA KB II/3, (Alfred Dürr, 1955): 18ff), and Bach Compendium BC E 14.

Visitation Music Distribution. Friedemann apparently inherited no Latin Music, presumably because no performances were required in Halle. Emmanuel also inherited Cantata 147 score, found on P. 79 for Visitation in the church year cantatas. Friedemann inherited the BWV 147 parts which survive from which he created a pasticcio score with BWV 147, his own recitative, and BWV 170/1, probably for a performance in September 1752 following Catechism Prayers.10 The score and parts of Visitation chorale Cantata 10 survive from Friedemann’s inheritance. The other Visitation cantatas associated with Bach were not part of his estate and were found in various Leipzig sources.


1 Alberto Rizzuti, “One Verse, Two Settings, and Three Strange Youths,” Chapter 4, Fra Kantor e Canticum. Bach e il Magnificat (Alessandria: Edizioni dell’Orso, 2011);
2 Peter Dikjkstra BR-Klassik recording notes,; BCW Recording details,
3 John Butt notes, BCW[Linn-SACD-booklet].pdf ; Recording details,
4 Marcus Rathey, Chapter 2, Bach’s Major Vocal Works: Music Drama, Liturgy.(New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016: 34).
5 Cited in Robin A. Leaver, Chapter 20, “Life and Works,” The Routledge Research Companion to Johann Sebastian Bach, ed. Leaver (Abingdon GB: Routledge, 2017: 508).
6 Cantata BWV 10, BCW Details and Discography, see, as well as BCML Discussion Part 5 (June 15, 2014), The cantata text with paraphrases of Luther’s German text translation from the Latin (BCW is found with Francis Browne’s English translation at BCW,
7 Melvin P. Unger, Handbook to Bach’s Sacred Cantata Texts: An Interlinear Translation with Reference Guide to Biblical Quotations and Illusions (Lanham Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1996: 104ff).
8 Robin A. Leaver, Chapter 16, Part IV, “Liturgico-Musical Forms,” Luther’s Liturgical Music: Principles and Implications (Grand Raids MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007: 270f).
9 Source, Mark A. Peters, “J. S. Bach’s ‘Meine Seel erhebt den Herren (BWV 10) as Chorale Cantata and Magnificat Paraphrase,” Bach: Journal of the Riemenschneider Institute, XLIII/1 (2012: 36).
10 See Daniel R. Melamed, “Wilhelm Friedemann Bach’s Halle performances of cantatas by his father,” in Bach Studies 2, ed. Melamed (Cambridge University Press, 1995: 211, 217, 228).

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 8, 2017):
Magnificats BWV 243 & BWV 243a - Revised & updated Discographies

The Magnificat in E flat major BWV 243a was composed by J.S. Bach in Leipzig for Vespers a feast of Christmas Day of 1723. The work is scored for soprano 1, soprano 2, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 5-part Chorus (SSATB) and orchestra of 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes, 2 flutes dolce (recorders), 2 violins, viola & continuo.
The Magnificat in D major BWV 243 was composed by J.S. Bach in Leipzig for Christmas Day or Vespers a feast of Easter or Pentecost between 1728-1731. The work is scored for soprano 1, soprano 2, alto, tenor & basss soloists; 5-part Chorus (SSATB) and orchestra of 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 transverse flutes, 2 oboes, 2 oboes d'amore, 2 violins, viola & continuo. This is actually a revision of BWV 243a.

The discography pages of both Magnificats on the BCW have been revised and updated. See:
Magnificat in E flat major BWV 243a -Complete Recordings (20):
Magnificat in E flat major BWV 243a - Recordings of Individual Movements (4):
Magnificat in D major BWV 243 - Complete Recordings (137):
on 8 inter-connected pages, a page per a decade, starting at:
Magnificat in D major BWV 243 - Recordings of Individual Movements (43):

The revised discographies includes many listening/watching options as part of the recording details. When you click a link to video/audio, a new window will open above the discography page and the video/audio will start to play.

I believe these are the most comprehensive discographies of both Magnificats. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 243 and/or BWV 243a missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.

You can also read on the BCW the recent discussion of these cantatas in the BCML (4th round):


William Hoffman wrote (July 8, 2017):
[To Aryeh Oron] Dear Aryeh: Thank you for the expanded format, BCML Discussion 2017. There is just one correction: For the March 10 Discussion, the Easter Oratorio, BWV 249, has this year's Part 3 current discussion,>

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 9, 2017):
BCW/BCML backlog [was: Magnificats BWV 243 & BWV 243a - Revised & updated Discographies]

[To William Hoffman] I chose the expanded format because it looks better both on the desktop & the mobile presentations.
The work on the mobile version took most of my time in recent months.
Now that this project is (almost) over, I have more time to close gaps in updating the BCW, including the BCML discussions.
I have kept all the material with me and I hope get to the Easter Oratorio BWV 249 sometime in the coming months.

William Hoffman wrote (July 9, 2017):
[To Aryeh Oron] Dear Aryeh: Thank you for all of your work. With my new MacBook Pro, I can access all kinds of sources and more greatly appreciate the work you do. The BCW on-line is a unique resource, especially the unique work you do on recordings and text translations — found nowhere else. These should be housed permanently with the Bach Arkiv Leipzig.

Meanwhile, I found these other discussions not listed in 2017 Calendar and don’t know if you can adjust the weekly headings (there is no hurry).

December 31, Bach’s Third Cantata Cycle (1725-27): Revised Classification

January 15, Bach’s Church-Year Cantatas: An Historical-Contemporary Perspective,

February 5, Cantata 157, Part 4,

February 12, Ludwig Bach Cantatas, JLB-3, JLB 4,

February 26, Cantata 159, Part 4: “Sehet ! Wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem,”

March 5, Annunciation Cantata BWV Anh. 199, "Siehe, ein Jungfrau ist schwanger,

March 19, Cantata 6, Part 5,,

March 26 Cantata 145, Part 4,

April 2, Cantata 42, Part 5,


Magnificats BWV 243 & BWV 243a: Details
BWV 243: Complete Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Recordings of Individual Movements
BWV 243a: Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
Systematic Discussions: BWV 243 | BWV 243a
Individual Recordings: 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

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: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 08:27