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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Meine Seel erhebt den Herren (My soul doth magnify the Lord)

Cantata 10

  • The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Epistle: Isaah xi. 1-5 (A rod shall come out of Jesse)
  • Gospel: Luke i. 39-56 (The Magnificat)
  • Rating: 1

BWV 10 is an unusual chorale cantata in that it sets a German translation of the Magnificat rather than the usual German Protestant hymn. Look for the familiar words in the first, fifth and seventh movements and for paraphrases in the rest. You may also wish to compare this style of setting with the wonderfully florid, celebratory BWV 243. I find the cantata more severe, more serious, more contemplative.

The original plainsong psalm tune (the Tonus Peregrinus) plays a prominent part throughout the cantata. Indeed, it appears immediately played by the trumpets in the introductory ritornello of the fine, exuberant, but serious choral first movement. It returns later, given to the sopranos and altos in turn. The introduction to the first soprano aria is an absolute hook! I defy you to be able to walk a away from this movement without whistling the tune for the rest of the day. The bass aria that follows the next recitative outdoes in drama the corresponding tenor aria (Deposuit potentes) in the Magnificat but perhaps loses out for lack of orchestral accompaniment. Still, it is a fine test for a mobile, dramatic bass voice. The movement that follows will be familiar to organists for its later transcription as one of the Schubler Chorales (BWV 648). Here it is a fine duet for alto and tenor over which the trumpet plays the Tonus Peregrinus. There's a lovely touch in the following recitative. At the words His seed would multiply, like the sand on the sea-shore, the strings are introduced to give the effect of waves lapping on the shore. The Tonus Peregrinus returns in the doxology to end the cantata.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.