These works both received their first performances in Leipzig - the Magnificat in 1723 and Cantata 82 in 1727. It was in 1723 that Bach had taken up thepost of Kantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, having previously been Kapellmeisterto Prince Leopold in Cothen. The Magnificat was originally heard ina version in E flat major at Christmas Vespers when movements with seasonaltexts were inserted; the version included on this disc was rendered by Bach someyears later, returning to the ordinary Magnificat text in order to makethe work performable all year round. Bach's approach to the evening canticle ischaracteristically large-scale. There is no use of recitative, owing perhaps tothe poetic nature of the text: the verses have little natural hierarchy and itis appropriate that they should all be afforded extended settings. The scoringis unusually rich and includes three trumpets, two flutes, two oboes, strings,continuo, and timpani - one of the largest ensembles to be assembled at theThomaskirche in Bach's time. Bach takes a literal view of the text in which, forinstance, the full five-part choir is used to demonstrate Omnes generationes ("All generations") with soloists used for the more reflective movements. Ina typically Bachian gesture the opening material returns for Sicut erat inprincipio ("As it was in the beginning").
What a wonderful contrast! Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Bach’s Magnificat represent the two oft-compared composers at Dixit . He had already written two Italian operas, and his career path clearly pointed in that direction. The Dixit is as extravagant as Bach’s Magnificat is controlled. The two pieces are such a good fit that one wonders why they haven’t turned up together more frequently, if, in fact, they have at all.
For consistently amiable, if undemanding entertainment, Albinoni’s concertos, with or without oboe, or oboes, are hard to beat. Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music here perform the 12 concertos contained in the collection published in 1722 as the composer’s Op. 9.