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Magnificat, SWV468

author of text
Luke 1: 46-55

Schütz’s Latin Magnificat was probably composed around the same time as the Christmas story and is scored with similar opulence: four soloists (the so-called coro favorito, or select choir) are combined with two four-voice choruses, two violins, three trombones (or sackbuts) and continuo. Divided into short, clearly defined sections that correspond to segments of the text, the music illustrates Schütz’s ingenuity of matching the words to sundry combinations of voices and instruments. In the brightly declamatory opening chorus, for example, the solo tenor calls out each phrase in advance of the other singers. This section leads, somewhat unexpectedly, to a wordless trombone trio in imitative counterpoint, followed by a light-textured duet for soprano and tenor with continuo accompaniment (‘Et exsultavit’ [‘And rejoices’]) and a brief dialogue between the solo bass and violins (‘Quia respexit’ [‘For he has regarded’]). The bass’s sturdily triadic melody morphs into the nimbly overlapping choral phrases of ‘ecce enim’ (‘for behold’), which in turn flower into the full-throated sonorities of ‘omnes generationes’ (‘all generations’).

After a melismatic section for the solo voices Schütz treats us to a classic example of Baroque word-painting in the fast flurry of sibilants that erupts on the words ‘dispersit superbos’ (‘he has scattered the proud’). The contrast between this animated outburst and the strenuously falling and rising lines of the ensuing section, ‘Deposuit potentes … et exaltavit humiles’ (‘He has put down the mighty … and has exalted the humble and meek’), could hardly be more dramatically apposite. Elsewhere in the Magnificat, the antiphonal effects created by the interplay between the two choirs evoke the sumptuous polychoral music that Schütz’s teacher Gabrieli composed for St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. As the work approaches its majestic climax, Schütz marshals all his forces for the ‘Gloria’, and his stirring canticle of praise ends with a setting of the text ‘Sicut erat in principio’ that neatly recalls the music ‘As it was in the beginning’.

from notes by Harry Haskell © 2019


Schütz: The Christmas story & other works
Studio Master: CDA68315Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track 6 on CDA68315 [10'44]

Track-specific metadata for CDA68315 track 6

Recording date
27 January 2018
Recording venue
St Thomas's Episcopal Church, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Recording producer
Andrew Walton
Recording engineer
Brian Losch
Hyperion usage
  1. Schütz: The Christmas story & other works (CDA68315)
    Disc 1 Track 6
    Release date: December 2019
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