This new large-scale setting of the Magnificat has been written as a companion piece to J.S. Bach’s famous setting (BWV 243). Although making use of a more contemporary musical language, it uses similar instrumentation, follows the same framework of chorus and solo movements, and makes use of a number of features that are typical of Bach’s music.

Composer’s Notes

It also makes extensive use of a particular Gregorian plainchant, the ‘tonus peregrinus’, or ‘wandering tone’, that Bach used in both his Latin setting of the Magnificat (No. 9. Suscepit Israel), and more extensively within his German setting (Cantata 10).

The opening movement, in the manner of an overture, begins with a grand introduction leading to a faster section with fugal textures. This is followed by Et exultavit spiritus for soprano soloist, which turns the tonus peregrinus into a rhythmic dance. Movement three, Quia respexit uses the first phrase of the chant as a ground bass, in a chaconne of increasing intensity. This is contrasted in the slow and peaceful movement that follows, Et misericordia. In this piece, two gentle contrasting themes are eventually brought together with the movement ending in stillness.

The pace quickens in Fecit potentiam, in which the tonus peregrinus is hammered out in separate chords. Later the choir sing forcefully in unison Deposuit potentes (he hath put down the mighty). The musical tension is maintained to the end but then resolved in the following movement for soprano soloist, Esurientes implevit, this time joined in duet with a flute.

The tonus peregrinus is used to introduce the final movement, Suscepit Israel, and is then heard in various guises as the music intensifies, then calms. The reappearance of music from the opening movement announces the Gloria Patri, which draws the music to a grand conclusion.

Recording session gallery

The gallery section has a set of pictures from the recording session at St Johns, Norwood, on the 14th of October 2023. It features the Excelsis choir, London Mozart Players and Amy Carson – directed by Robert Lewis.

There is also a video of ‘Et Misericordia’, filmed during the recording of Magnificat.

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