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Bach: Magnificat

Friday December 20th 2019
8.30 pm | 2h10 with intermission


Maria Keohane Soprano
Esther Brazil Soprano
Robin Blaze Alto
James Oxley Tenor
Stephan MacLeod Bass

La Chapelle Harmonique
Valentin Tournet Musical conductor


For the vespers of his first Christmas in Leipzig on December 25th 1723, Bach chose to give the cantata Christen, ätzet diesen Tag (BWV 63) and the Magnificat at the Nikolaikirche. This first version of the Magnificat in E flat major, is played with four lauds recounting part of the story of Christmas, interspersed within the movements of the Magnificat.

There are also variations in the instrumentation: recorders, and not the traverso flutes of the later version, have a more pastoral tone to accompany the “Esurientes”; the trumpet, and not the oboe, intone the tonus peregrinus of “Suscepit Israel”. It is easy to see why Bach chose cantata BWV 63 to go with his Magnificat: an inspired composition which begins and ends with impressive chorales was exactly the right work for the occasion. It brought together the greatest number of musicians since Bach’s arrival in the position in Leipzig six months before: four trumpets, timbals and three oboes, in addition to the chorale in four parts and strings.

This cantata is preceded by cantata BWV 62 for the first Sunday in Advent. The pieces presented here immerse us in the unique atmosphere which reigned in Luther’s country at Christmas time, a sweet mixture of joy, hope and admiration before the miracle of Incarnation.

This programme has been recorded for the recording label Château de Versailles Spectacles.

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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1759)

Cantate Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland 
Cantate Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben 
Magnificat in E flat major for Christmas Day

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