The Magnificat septimi toni
, the Canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, takes its text from Luke 1: 46–55, which recounts Mary’s response to the Annunciation of the Incarnation to her by the Angel Gabriel. Victoria wrote eighteen settings of the Magnificat
. Two of these are large-scale polychoral works setting all the verses of the canticle after an opening plainsong intonation. The remaining sixteen are for four voices and set either the odd or the even verses of the Canticle to polyphony, the intervening verses being sung to plainsong. This Magnificat
on the seventh tone (which is preceded by a short plainsong antiphon ‘Gabriel Angelus’) opens with a brief intonation of the first word of the text and thereafter the odd-numbered verses of the canticle are set to polyphony and the even-numbered verses are sung to plainsong. Apart from the ‘Gloria Patri’, in which a second tenor part is employed, the music is basically in four parts (SATB) with a number of reduced-voice sections for ATB or SAT to add variety. Because of the smaller forces, the style of the polyphony is different from that of the Psalms, being written mainly in a more intimate fugal manner, using motives often derived from the plainsong. After a vigorous triple-time setting of the ‘Suscepit Israel’ verse and the penultimate plainsong verse, the Magnificat
comes to a satisfying finish with the five-part setting of the ‘Gloria Patri’ in which the soprano part, singing the plainsong in long notes, soars above the busy polyphonic texture of the lower parts; finally the work is rounded off by the singing of the last verse of the plainsong, followed by a repetition of the antiphon.
from notes by Jon Dixon © 2004