"Mein Herz erhebet Gott, den Herrn"
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Op. 69 Nr. 3
We start today with Felix Mendelssohn's interpretation of the Magnificat prayer. He composed these three Motets less than 6 months after the death of his sister, Fanny, by which he was greatly affected. He was 38 years old.
No. 2 and 3, Psalm 100 and Magnificat, appear to be the only works he composed in the month following Fanny's death while he and the family were in Baden-Baden. They were originally written in English for the Anglican Evening service, and published in German by Breitkopf '& Hartel the following year. He wrote to his publishing company-"I also send two new pieces forming the whole of an Evening Service, which are perhaps a little longer and more developed than usual in your Cathedral style; yet I hope they might be used, and I found much pleasure in occupying myself with them"
These smaller works seem to have been influenced more by Palestrina, and, although he was baptized as a Reformed Christian, he also includes Jewish rhythms and melodies because of his Jewish background.
||Overture-Suite in D-Major
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
This Overture-Suite by Telemann serves as 'rest' in today's program. It is only a 'rest' though through it not being an interpretation of the Magnificat, as this piece stands alone in its own right.
"With its dramatic opening, it is immediately striking for its singular scoring and suggests something of a pompous courtly atmosphere. It is regrettable that research has not yet been able to establish the occasion and the personality for whom this distinctive work was written." - Peter Huth (trans. Charles Johnston)
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Today we perform Vivaldi's original version of the Magnificat prayer. He later adapted it for a double choir, and even later added arias where there were sections for solo voices. Some of the changes may have been made for performances in the Ospedale de/la PiettJ in Venice, where he was violin teacher and later director of music, composing most of his major works while working there.
Listen how Vivaldi emphasizes the Lord's strength in Fecit potentiam by the use of a powerful bass line, and how in the following piece the exaltation of the humble (exaltavit humilies) is felt in the way the theme rises.
||Magnificat in D-Major
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Bach's Magnificat was written shortly after Vivaldi's, in 1723, soon after being appointed as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. He reworked it in 1733 for the Feast of the Visitation, commemorating Mary's visit to Elizabeth, changing it to the brighter key of D major to accommodate the trumpet parts and to better reflect the festive tone of the Feast.
He starts the work with just the orchestra, the trumpets playing ascending triads to add a sense of majesty. Pairs of voices are added, with the dotted rhythm echoing the regal feel until all voices are joined in worship.
Notice in the third movement that Bach leaves out the last two words from the Latin verse, in order to give prominence to All Generations (Omnes Generationes) in the fourth movement. Each of the five vocal parts repeats these words in an interweaving tapestry, perhaps to show multiple generations across multiple times and continents, until they come together in unison right at the end.