Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Baroque Era > Magnificat in D (J S Bach)
Magnificat in D
Johann Sebastian Bach
The Magnificat in D -- known as the "Great Magnificat," to distinguish it from the smaller -- is considered one of the grandest illustrations of Bach's genius. It was composed for Christmas Day, 1723. For the occasion for this festival Bach expanded the Biblical text into four vocal numbers; but in describing the work it is only necessary to give it as it is now generally sung.
The work is written for a five-part chorus, with organ and orchestral accompaniment. After a concerted introduction, foreshadowing the general character of the music, it opens with the chorus ("Magnificat Anima mea"), in fugal form. It is followed by an aria for second soprano ("Et exultavit Spiritus meus: in Deo salutari meo"), which is the same key and has the same general feeling as the opening chorus, that of Christmas rejoicing, and in turn is followed by an aria for first soprano ("Quia respexit Humilitatem Ancillae suae"), leading directly to the chorus which takes up unfinished words for the soprano ("Omnes Generationes"), each part overlaying the other as it enters, and closing in canon form in grave and colossal harmony. Its next number is an aria for bass ("Quia fecit mihi magna"), of a simple and joyous character, followed by a melodious duet for alto and tenor ("Et Misericodia"), with violin and flute accompaniment, setting forth the mercy of God, in contrast with which the powerful and energetic chorus ("Fecit Potentiam") which succeds it is very striking in its effect. Two beautiful arias for tenor ("Deposuit, Potentes de Sede") and alto ("Esurientes implevit Bonis") follow, the latter being exquisitely tender in its expression, and lead to the terzetto ("Suscepit Israel Puerum suum: recordatus Misericordiae suae"), arranged in chorale form, and very plaintive and even melancholy in style. A stupendous five-part fugue ("Sicut locutus est") follows it and leads to the triumphant ("Gloria"), closing the work, a chorus of extraordinary majesty and power.