Hyperion Records

Closely related to Canticum Mariae virginis and to the non-ecclesiastical Nirvana Dharma (1979), the Magnificat (1979) is a five-movement setting of the Canticle of the Virgin Mary in Latin. As in the other two pieces, the main compositional principle is symmetry. In the first movement, ‘Magnificat’, the altos and tenors sing pentatonic harmonies around which the sopranos and basses weave their melodies. The structure is twofold, the transition highlighted by a transformation of the harmonic material. ‘Quia respexit’ begins with a theme sung by soprano and alto soloists under which the women of the choir spin a diatonic field in parallel triads. The male voices sing a canon underneath this structure.

‘Fecit potentiam’ is a short, rhythmic piece based on a parallel minor triad motif with countersubjects. ‘Suscepit Israel’ opens with a speech choir out of which an E minor tonality emerges and concludes with a beautiful three-part canon in the women’s voices. The final ‘Gloria’ opens with a slow, part-aleatoric and almost chant-like structure. The music builds to a climax reminiscent of the bell music in Canticum Mariae virginis and then goes into an almost martial declamation of the text ‘Sicut erat in principio’, with open parallel fifths creating a severe and archaic feel as the work progresses to a dynamic conclusion.

from notes by Jaakko Mäntyjärvi © 2010

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