The singing of the Magnificat, the Canticle of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1: 46–55), formed the climax, though not the end, of Vespers, and during its singing the altar was ceremonially censed. This second Magnificat setting from the Selva morale
, in complete contrast to the opulence of the first (see volume 1
), is for choir alone, in the ‘old style’, with the organ line merely doubling the lowest vocal part. In the context of the Selva morale
the two settings were no doubt intended to demonstrate that Monteverdi was equally expert in both styles. Here he sets only the even-numbered verses, leaving the others to be chanted to the plainsong psalm tone for Mode 1, which he also uses, though not rigidly, in his settings of the other verses.
from notes by John Whenham © 2005