Paul Riley
BBC Music Magazine
March 2018

Four decades. One family. Three settings of the same canticle. If you needed an aural demonstration of how the musical tectonic plates were shifting in the years spanning JS Bach’s arrival in Leipzig and the emergence of the young Mozart you would be hard pressed to find a more illuminating disc than this latest offering from Arcangelo. And as high Baroque glides seamlessly into the ‘sensitive’ style and into unapologetically Italianate ‘galanterie’, the Bach family DNA is not to be contradicted.

Its text parcelled into five compact movements, JC Bach’s thrustingly up-to-the-minute Magnificat was probably composed in 1760, the same year in which he assumed the post of organist at Milan Cathedral. CPE’s much more extended setting (by the clock four times longer) is given in its 1779 respray, though Jonathan Cohen retains the ravishing original 1749 ‘Et misericordia’. It’s not difficult to hear why.

Papa JS’s Marian contribution, meanwhile, is the familiar D major revision rather than the E flat original, but there’s nothing overfamiliar about the captivating freshness and buoyancy that both chorus and instrumentalists bring to a much-loved warhorse. How incisively the strings dig into ‘Et exsultavit’, ideally counterpointing the rich mezzo of Olivia Vermeulen. Cohen plays the theatricality of the JC Bach to the hilt, while acknowledging the homage to JS in the opening of CPE’s setting.

A couple of minor solo vocal issues might give pause for thought, but can’t undermine the sheer joie de vivre and accomplishment of the disc as a whole.