Bach: Magnificat - van Veldhoven

Bach: Magnificat - van Veldhoven

Channel Classics  CCS SA 32010

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal

Bach: Magnificat BWV 243, Cantata "Unser Mund sei Voll Lachens" BWV 110

The Netherlands Bach Society
Jos van Veldhoven (conductor)

All the music on this CD is associated with the festival of Christmas. Bach wrote the cantata Unser Mund sei voll Lachens (BWV 110) for morning service on Christmas Day 1725, and the first version of the Magnificat in E flat major (BWV 243a) for Vespers on Christmas Day 1723, seven months after the Leipzig town council appointed him cantor of the Thomaskirche. It would hardly be exaggerating to say that Bach thus presented his visiting card to his new employer. According to the Bach scholar Christoph Wolff, the work is his "first really large-scale and complex piece of church music". Christmas was not the only occasion to sing the Magnificat text, however, for it was also a standard part of the Vespers liturgy. This may explain why Bach made a second version some years later (in D major, BWV 243).

For a Christmas CD in the year 2010 it is obviously attractive to add new movements to Bach's Magnificat, entirely in keeping with the tradition of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His own choice, in the E flat major version, remains unsurpassed. By adding extra Christmas music to the second version in D major, however, a new and unexpected form arises which lends the performance a certain topicality. What is more, it gives us the opportunity to present Bach with several Netherlands composers of the seventeenth century.

Jos van Veldhoven

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DSD recording
Reviews (1)

Review by Graham Williams - November 6, 2010

Anyone seeking an appropriate Christmas present for a discerning audiophile needs look no further than this superbly performed and recorded SACD.

Both the works on this lovely offering from Jos van Veldhoven and the Netherlands Bach Society are associated with the festival of Christmas so their coupling is most certainly apt.
The seven-movement Cantata ‘Unser Mund sei voll Lachens’ (BWV110) received its first performance in Leipzig on Christmas day 1725 and the music of its opening section will be recognized by many as an adaptation of Bach’s popular Suite in D (BWV1069). Scored for four-part choir with 3 trumpets, timpani, flutes, oboe, bassoon, violin, viola and continuo with organ, the galloping rhythm of the opening contrasts with the more intimate sections that follow. All four soloists are excellent, delivering their arias with pure tone and feeling. This is particularly true in the case of the counter-tenor William Towers whose singing of the aria ‘Ach Herr, was ist ein Menschenkind’ with its lovely oboe accompaniment is most touching.

Bach’s earlier version of his Magnificat (in the key of E flat major) was written in 1723 and first performed on Christmas day that year in Leipzig. At that time it was not uncommon for composers to insert what were called ‘Einlagen’ or interludes into the standard text. These were pieces apposite to Christmas, such as carols, traditional or newly composed. When Bach produced his second and grander version of the Magnificat nine years later, this time in the key of D major, the ‘Einlagen’ were dropped, which freed the work from performances being simply given at Christmas.
On this SACD Jos van Veldhoven has had the happy idea of performing Bach’s familiar (and most would agree superior) second version of the Magnificat in D (BWV243), but with an added twist. In order to maintain the Christmas theme of the whole disc he has inserted four appropriate and quite delightful ‘Einlagen’ by seventeenth century composers into the work. These are:

‘Hoe schoon lichtet de morghen ster’ (Dirck Janszoon Sweelinck)
‘Currite, pastores’ (Jan Baptist Verrijt)
‘O Jesulein,mein Jesulein’ (Johann Hermann Schein)
‘Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe’ (Johann Michael Bach)

Of course, anyone wishing to listen to the Magnificat without these additional movements can easily do so by programming their player accordingly, but I cannot imagine that anyone will not consider them to be a most welcome bonus when performed as entrancingly as here.

As in the cantata, solo and choral singing is exceptionally fine while the varied instrumental accompaniments, as anyone familiar with the Netherlands Bach ensemble’s work knows, are delivered with exceptional polish and a ravishing sound.

The 5.0 DSD recording, made in the Concert Hall, Tilburg, is vivid and realistic with a wide spread. The festive trumpets and hard baroque timpani make their full impact in the more exuberant sections of both works, yet the recording also captures the intimacy of the more reflective moments such as the tenor aria ‘Ihr Gedanken und ihr Sinnen’ in the cantata in which two flutes tenderly accompany the vocal line. As usual with Channel presentation is excellent. The 28-page booklet contains informative notes by the conductor, biographies of the artists and texts and translations are also included.

Recommended unreservedly.

Copyright © 2010 Graham Williams and


Sonics (Multichannel):

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