Magnificat

Magnificat on the Sixth Tone Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

Canzona Dieterich Buxtehude (1638?-1707)

When the angel tells Mary that she’s going to have The Baby, she breaks into a song/poem that begins “My soul doth magnify the Lord…” In Latin this is “Magnificat anima mea…”, so in musical circles Mary’s song has come to be known as “the Magnificat”. The Magnificat text was a particular favorite of musicians from the Middle Ages well into the Baroque era, so we have countless settings of it for voice, and also for instruments alone. In the Middle Ages there were eight different scales, so a popular setting of the Magnificat was to write a cycle of pieces—one on each of the eight ‘tones’ (scales).