Most settings of the Magnificat, including Bach's Latin language setting, have a certain rarefied quality. It is thus surprising to see such sizzling intensity in the opening section of his German language cantata version, BWV 10. The first chorus of this great cantata is one of the "hottest" things in all of Bach. One imagines the young Mary, sizzling with anticipation. The big bravura soprano aria that follows the chorus is scarcely less energetic, although perhaps more poised. The very beautiful secco recitative for tenor leads into one of the few humorous pieces that Bach ever wrote. The downfall of the mighty and the pompous is characterized with relish and great panache. The great descending scales in both the continuo and the bass voice are delectable in their virtuosity. The cantata becomes cooler in tone with the ravishing duet for alto and tenor with the chorale being intoned by the mysterious sound of the trumpet doubling the oboes. The marvelous sinuous lines of the two voices interweave bewitchingly with the haunting chorale. A second tenor recitative, this time accompanied by the strings, leads us into the sturdy four-voice harmonization of the chorale that ends this impressive cantata.

©Craig Smith

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