Bach's MagnificatBach's Magnificat

The Gramophone Choice

Magnificat in D. Mass, BWV235. Fuga sopra il Magnificat (Meine Seele erhebt den Herren), BWV733. Prelude and Fugue, BWV541

Maria Keohane, Anna Zander sops Carlos Mena alto Hans-Jörg Mammel ten Stephan MacLeod bass Francis Jacob org Ricercar Consort / Philippe Pierlot

Mirare (CD + DVD) MIR102 (65’ · DDD · T/t) Bonus DVD includes ‘Magnificat’ – a film by Pierre-Hubert Martin. Buy from Amazon

Presented as a grand work with a single-voice chorus, this reading of the Magnificat is vitally conceived and multi-dimensional. So often the blend of a madrigal-sized choir detracts from a necessary corporate impact but such is the keen characterisation of the text and the willingness to ‘come and go’ in the texture that the Ricercar Consort convey, in the exultant framing movements and ‘Omnes generationes’, a rare combination of visceral rhythmic verve and vocal energy.

The solo movements are also bursting with personality, soprano Anna Zander delivering a robustly fluent ‘Et exultavit’ and her counterpart, Maria Keohane, a sensually captivating ‘Quia respexit’, whose oboe d’amore obbligato dovetails her lines with imploring beauty. If the alto, Carlos Mena, is the least vocally poised, then his ‘Esurientes’ is still exceptionally judged and his duetting with tenor Hans-Jörg Mammel in ‘Et misericordia’ sensitively projected. As throughout, all the singing is complemented by delectable instrumental accompaniments. ‘Suscepit Israel’ is the highlight, however: a bittersweet Carissimi-like trio of mesmerising fragility.

The G  minor Mass represents a clever juxtaposition of conceits with the Magnificat, as Bach revisits choice cantata movements and parodies them so successfully that this lesser-known example from the four so-called Lutheran Masses reminds us what they can communicate so specially with such a finely blended and integrated ensemble as the Ricercar Ensemble. Francis Jacob provides considered accounts of two significant solo organ works: supremely refined playing which articulates the ambitions of an exceptionally distinguished project.

 

Additional Recommendation

Bach Magnificat in D. Vivaldi Ostro picta, RV642. Gloria in D, RV589

Emma Kirkby, Tessa Bonner sops Michael Chance counterten John Mark Ainsley ten Stephen Varcoe bar Collegium Musicum 90 / Richard Hickox

Chandos CHAN0518 (64' · DDD · T/t). Buy from Amazon

Hickox sets effective tempi in Bach’s Magnificat and points up the many striking contrasts in colour and texture with which the piece abounds. From among the many successful features of the recording Stephen Varcoe’s ‘Quia fecit mihi magna’ and the ‘Et misericordia’ sung by Michael Chance and John Mark Ainsley stand out. Vivaldi’s Gloria, RV589, is the better known of two settings by the composer in D major. In this programme it’s prefaced by an introductory motet Ostro picta, which may well in fact belong to the Gloria and is here sung with warmth and radiance by Emma Kirkby. Hickox’s performance of this evergreen vocal masterpiece comes over with conviction. It’s gracefully phrased, sensitively sung and affectingly paced with an admirable rapport between vocalists and instrumentalists. The sound is first rate.

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