Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings

Cantata BWV 10
Meine Seel erhebt den Herren
Discussions - Part 5

Continue from Part 4

Discussions in the Week of June 15, 2014 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (June 15, 2014):
Cantata 10, “Meine Seel erhebt den Herren”: Intro.

After the initial series of four remarkable chorale cantatas to introduce the second cycle in omnes tempore early Trinity Time, Bach had the opportunity to compose a most unique hymn-driven musical sermon, unlike any other in the canon of 50. Cantata BWV 10, “Meine Seel erhebt den Herren” (My soul praises the Lord) was composed for the de tempore Feast of the Visitation of Mary on July 2, 1724. Using a second-generation, by-way-of-Martin-Luther poetic paraphrase of Mary’s canticle, Magnificat anima mea Dominum (My soul doth magnify the Lord, Luke 1:46-55), Cantata 10 blends Italian opera style, similar to Bach’s Christmas 1723 Magnificat Latin setting, BWV 243a, to the old cantus firmus technique using psalm tone, and ending with a German harmonized chorale setting of the traditional vesper’s Doxology, based on Luther’s German Magnificat setting of the original chant.

Joyous Cantata 10 holds several distinctions and “firsts.” Unlike the previous four hymn settings, Bach uses the text based on the Gospel (Luke 1:46-55), for the de tempore Marian Feast, as well as the traditional vesper series liturgy. In the chorale’s internal paraphrased two arias and recitatives (librettist unknown) is his first soprano chorale cantata aria (Mvt. No. 2 and da-capo repeat to boot), “Herr, der du stark und mächtig bist” (Lord, you who are strong and mighty, Luke 1:49/S.3 paraphrase). Later (Mvt. No. 5), Bach’s only internal motto quotation from Luther’s text, “Er denket der Barmherzigkeit / Und hilft seinem Diener Israel auf” (He remembers his mercy / and raises up his servant Israel, Luke 1:54, Stanza 9 quote) is set as his first chorale aria duet with C.f. trumpet in the cycle. Not to be outdone, Bach takes this quartet-part, 6/8 pastorale-gigue style aria and transcribes it as one of the Schübler Chorales, BWV 648a in 1748-49 for organ. Thus, it is one of the rare examples of Bach recycling borrowed material from a chorale cantata.

Cantata 10, “Meine Seel erhebt den Herren” (My soul praises the Lord), is described as a Chorale Cantata for the Feast of Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth ("Mariä Heimsuchung"), premiering on Sunday, July 2, 1724,1 falling on the 4th Sunday after Trinity and taking precedence. Martin Luther’s original chorale text is “Meine Seele erhebet den Herren,” composer anonymous 1532, canticle; 10 stanzas, Francis Browne English Translation, The libretto quotes Luther’s text for Stanza 1 (Luke 1: 46-48) in the opening fantasia (Mvt. 1) and in Stanza 8 ( Luke 1: 54) in the chorale duet Mvt. 5, with anonymous paraphrases (Mvts. 2-4, 6) and the additional German Doxology as the aplin chorale (Mvt. 7). See the complete German text, Francis Browne English translation, BCW

Cantata 10 is based on the Readings: Epistle, Isaiah 11:1-5 (A rod shall come out of Jesse); Gospel, Luke 1: 39-56 (Mary’s Magnificat, German), Martin Luther 1545 German translation, English translation Authorised (King James) Version [KJV] 1611.

Special Magnificat Setting

The special Magnificat setting in Canata 10 and the unique musical treatment are described in Julian Mincham’s Commentary introduction.2 << This setting of the Magnificat will have resonances for Christians of various sects, not only in the title and opening words of the first chorus ‘my soul does magnify the Lord’, but also in the closing chorale ‘as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end’. The term chorale is somewhat misleading since, although in its four-part versions it resembles a Lutheran hymn, its origins are far older, its roots lying in Gregorian chant (Dürr p 678).

But, as will be seen, Bach treats it no differently than we have come to expect in this cycle. He accepts it as embodying the expressions of belief and dogma which the other movements will explore and additionally, it provides musical motives which act as the building blocks for their construction.

This cantata shows just how much Bach was able to demand from his instrumentalists a little over one year after his appointment at Leipzig. The degree of virtuosity and musical command is quite stunning, most markedly in the string and continuo parts of the two arias. One does wonder if, when picking up yet again a set of new parts for the impending Sunday service, the musicians approached the task of meeting the challenges with vigour and enthusiasm.

Or was it a feeling of, 'Well, here's another fine mess the Cantor has got us into!'

This work, despite the archaic nature of the chorale melody upon which it is constructed, is entirely Italianate in both its character and structure. It is, indeed, a miracle of Bach’s supreme eclectic mastery of his craft and art that he could produce such a ‘modern’ composition from such an antiquated starting point. Four movements (chorus, two arias and duet) are constructed, to a greater or lesser degree, on the Italian ritornello or concerto principle. Rhythmic energy and vigour suffuse the cantata throughout.

It also speaks highly of the standards of Bach's singers that they should have mastered the difficult lines of the soprano and bass arias, possibly in as short a time as a couple of days. Many of Bach's singers were, after all, pupils and students, some not yet fully professional musicians and the boys were very young; typically between 14 and 18 years old. Their melodic lines were not only difficult in themselves but the control of ensemble and integration with the instrumental lines (which it would be quite wrong to call 'accompaniments') would have created further challenges.

The quality of instruction and rehearsal by Bach and his prefects must have been incredibly high and belies the prejudice held some years ago that his performers achieved only mediocre standards. Some commentators have suggested that Bach overestimated the capacities of his singers and instrumentalists when he took up his Leipzig post but here, well over a year later, he still appears to be demanding much from them.

Bach does use a trumpet to double the chorale melody in the opening and closing movements but this is obviously not intended primarily as an aid to the singers since the voices carrying the cantus firmus melody have the least technical demands put upon them. It simply gives additional force and colour to the principal melodic line.>>

Cantata 10 Movements (Luke verses 1:46-55/Stanzas), scoring, initial text; key, time signature:3

1. Chorus (1:46-48/S.1-2) two part (SATB; Tromba, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo: A. “Meine Seel erhebt den Herren” (My soul praises the Lord); B. “Denn er hat seine elende Magd angesehen” (for he has looked upon his wretched handmaiden); g minor; 4/4.
2. Aria da capo (1:49/S.3) (Soprano; Oboe I/II all' unisono, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo): A. “Herr, der du stark und mächtig bist” (Lord, you who are strong and mighty); B. “Du siehest mich Elenden an” (You look upon me in my wretchedness); B-Flat Major; 4/4.
3. Recitative (1:49-50/S.4-5) (Tenor, Continuo): “Des Höchsten Güt und Treu / Wird alle Morgen neu” (The goodness and faithfulness of the most high God); closing arioso (Die voller Stolz und Hoffart sind), “Will seine Hand wie Spreu zerstreun” (those who are full of pride and arrogance), his hand scatters like chaff; g to d minor; 4/4.
4. Aria ostinato dal segno (1:52-53/S.-6-7) (Bass, Continuo): “Gewaltige stößt Gott vom Stuhl” (God thrusts the mighty from the seat); B. “Die Niedern pflegt Gott zu erhöhen” (God is accustomed to raise the lowly);
5. Duetto (1:54/S,8) (e Choral) (Alto, Tenor; Tromba (C.f.) e Oboe I/II all'unisono, Continuo: “Er denket der Barmherzigkeit / Und hilft seinem Diener Israel auf” (He remembers his mercy / and raises up his servant Israel, Luke 1:54, Stanza 9 quote); d minor; 6/8 pastorale-gigue style.
6. Recitative (1:55/S.10 (Tenor; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo): A. Secco, “Was Gott den Vätern alter Zeiten / Geredet und verheißen hat / Erfüllt er auch im Werk und in der Tat” (What God to the fathers of old / has spoken and promised / he also accomplishes in act and deed); B. Adagio with strings, “Sein Same mußte sich so sehr” (His seed had to spread out so very much); B-Flat Major to g minor; 4/4.
7. Plain chorale doxology (S.10-11) (SATB; Violino I e Oboe I/II e Tromba col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo): “Lob und Preis sei Gott dem Vater und dem Sohn” (Glory and praise be to God the Father and to the Son), added Stanza 11; g minor; 4/4.

Background, Comments

Background for Cantata 10 is found in BCW Discussions Parts 1, Aryeh Oron wrote (July 6, 2002):

The unique place of Cantata 10 is described Peter Smaill’s comments in BCW Discussion Part 2 (June 25, 2006):4 <<Dürr summarises the point of this work and reflects much of the fascinating analysis on BCW from 2002 as follows: "Among Bach's chorale cantatas this work occupies a special place. It is not based on a Protestant hymn, and yet if ever a work deserved the description "chorale cantata" it is this, for it is based on a genuine (Gregorian) chorale melody, that of the ninth psalm-tone."

Of note is Thomas Braatz work on the provenance, the score having passed through the Wittgenstein family (Paul, the composer-musician owner by descent was brother of the famous (Jewish) philosopher Ludwig, who was at the same school in Linz as his contemporary Adolf Hitler).

As to the potential musical discoveries: the fact that the cantus firmus is passed from soprano to alto is noted by Robertson, but its significance as a unique instance is mentioned in the last discussions. Since we have noted (Stephen Daw is my source, Bach The Choral Works: 122 ) that the preceding four cantatas which open the second cycle use the voices in succession as the source of the chorale/cantus firmus, it is thus in Bach's scheme of things, "unity by inclusion, diversity amid order" to lead on to a further permutation!

As often happens, some of the critics miss the especial pleasure of the final chorale. Dürr ": The two verses of the doxology are set in a plain four-part texture". Robertson "The doxology. The sopranos have the first phrase of the Tonus Peregrinus, sung twice, and completed in the last line." That's all they say.

But try playing it out of Riemenschneider and the Whittaker analysis comes to life (Cantatas of JSB: II:184).

"After this spell of enchantment the doxology bursts into full force. The harmonization is one of great dignity.......During the last line, contrary to Bach's practice in simple chorales, basses, tenors and altos enter one after another in imitation. The extended Amen makes a noble peroration to this splendid cantata". Just as the first movement seems unique in its use of voices, so in the last movement, the chorale in effect, at one point there is I think an unparalleled reduction (relative to the chorales as a whole) to two voices (B/S), then three, then four.

Bach's purpose in this exceptional chorale treatment, IMO, is to emphasise the upward walking figure which originates in the bass, indicative not only the the path of faith for the believer but reflective of the emphasis on the supreme trust and faith exemplified by Mary in the theological tradition of the Church.>>

Luther’s comments on the Magnificat in various translations and the importance of Mary are found in BCW Cantata 10 Discussions Part 2 (Ibid., FN 4.)

Cantata 10 Overview

An overview of Cantata 10 is found in John Eliott Gardiner’s 2010 notes to the 2000 Bach Pilgrimage Soli Deo recordings.5 <<Two weeks after the first outing of BWV 2 on 18 June 1724 Bach introduced BWV 10 Meine Seel erhebt den Herrn for the feast of the Visitation – the fifth work in his second Leipzig cantata cycle. He thought sufficiently highly of it to repeat it at least once during the 1740s. It was intended for the liturgy of the Vesper service in Leipzig, and his unknown librettist presents the German Magnificat unaltered for movements 1 and 5 and paraphrased in 2, 3, 4 and 6, with a concluding choral doxology rather than a chorale. For the unaltered words Bach finds ways to weave in the tonus peregrinus, the congregational chant associated with these words in Lutheran tradition. It makes a fascinating foil to his Latin Magnificat (BWV 243), first performed (with Christmas interpolations) on Christmas Day the year before. Less flamboyantly scored and less overtly theatrical, the cantata yields nothing to the canticle in terms of canny musical craftsmanship and word painting.

Bach’s challenge here is to find a workable synthesis between the modal character of the tonus peregrinus and the festive mood of the text, and what that suggests to him in choral and instrumental ebullience. There is equivalent rhythmical propulsion to the opening chorale fantasia (marked vivace), with Italianate violin concerto-style arpeggios for the upper strings and vigorous declamation from the three lower choral voices. For the second verse the tonus peregrinus, now assigned to the altos, migrates to the subdominant before a

characteristically skilful meshing together of the opening sinfonia with the choral texture, but this time without the cantus firmus.

The second movement, a festive concertante soprano aria in B flat, maintains the rhythmical élan to describe the Lord as ‘stark und mächtig’ (strong and mighty). A comparison of the autograph score with the original parts suggests that the unison oboes, which complete the four-part texture when the singer pauses, may have been added only as an afterthought when Bach came to copy out the parts. The tenor recitative (No.3) culminates with a thirty-six note melisma to evoke the proud being scattered like chaff that might have brought a smile of recognition to Bach’s congregation recalling the Evangelist’s scourging motif heard in the St John Passion some four months earlier. Next comes a pompous, implacable aria for bass, emphasising the forceful ejection of the proud in the hammered notes of the basso continuo descending to the bottom of the ‘Schwefelpfuhl’ (the sulphurous pit) and leading to a witty way of describing the rich left empty and desolate (‘bloß – und – leer’). It makes for an intriguing comparison with the ‘Deposuit’ from the Latin Magnificat. As in the ‘Suscepit Israel’ of that work, Bach brings back the tonus peregrinus (assigned to the trumpet) now as a foil to an alto/tenor duet of the utmost tenderness and lyricism (No.5).

But perhaps he leaves the best till last, a tenor recitative (No.6), beginning secco and then enriched by a lapping semiquaver accompaniment for the upper strings to describe how God’s seed ‘had to be strewn so far abroad like sand by the sea and stars in the firmament’, and for a paraphrase of the opening words of St John’s

Gospel (‘And the Word was made flesh’) which rounds off this cantata with a wonderful and satisfying promise of solace and grace. The doxology is redolent of Heinrich Schütz in the vigour of its choral declamation – the way Bach seems to savour the alternation of strong and weak stresses of the German language.

Schütz (1585-1672) is the unsung hero linking Monteverdi and Bach. He was, I believe, the conduit for that rich vein of musical expression and the near-scientific exploration of the human passions that Monteverdi pioneered, responsible for passing it on via such pupils as Jonas de Fletin to Johann Christoph Bach, and from him to his great first-cousin-once-removed. More than any other Baroque composer Schütz recognised the rhythms, sensual patterns and rhetorical force of sung German. Juxtapose him therefore with Bach and the spotlight is turned on the latter’s word-setting: not always felicitous, neven the main consideration. With Bach other priorities rule, though when he chooses to he shows himself not only perfectly capable of clarity and sensitivity in his treatment of words, but even a master rhetorician.>> © John Eliot Gardiner 2010; From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage

Movement Details, Cantata 10

Details of the movements in Cantata 10 are found in Klaus Hofmann’s liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki complete BIS Cantata recordings. << The four cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach on this CD are all from the so-called chorale cantata cycle. This large-scale cycle of cantatas for the Sundays and feast days of the church year was written in Bach's second year of service in Leipzig, 1724-25. The cantatas from this season all refer to specific hymns that were in common use on the Sundays or feast days in question. To the prescribed gospel reading for the day, therefore, there is sometimes only an indirect relationship. In the church services during which these cantatas were heard, the relevant gospel passage was indeed the subject of the sermon, but probably the hymn was incorporated into the priest's presentation corresponding to a known tradition in 17th-century Leipzig.

Nothing certain is known about the author of Bach's texts. The texts must have been prepared in close collaboration with the composer by a poet from Leipzig who possessed a profound knowledge of theology; possibly the former deputy headmaster of the Thomasschule, Andeas Stübel (1653-l725). The common plan of Bach and his text author envisaged using the original wording and the accepted melody of the first and last strophes of the hymn to form the beginning and the end of the cantata - the first strophe as a broad chorale for choir, and the final strophe in a simple four-part setting. The strophes in between would then be partly or

wholly reworked into arias and recitatives, with music composed in accordance with these requirements. This concept permitted great variety and proved to be extremely 'heard-wearing'. The fundamental aim from a theological perspective was the sermon-like interpretation of the hymn text, and this also serves as a framework for Bach's task as a composer; at the same time, however, Bach is uniquely successful in bringing together the cantata composer's artistry and congregational singing, the artificial and the traditional. In a certain respect this anticipates the early enlightenment ideal of an art that can be understood equally ‘in cottages or palaces', providing music that suits the musically demanding and intellectually advanced listener as well as the simple parishioner.

The cantata Meine Seel erhebt den Herren (My soul doth magnify the Lord), the fifth work in the chorale cantata year, was head for the first time on the fourth Sunday after Trinity in 1724. Because this Sunday coincided in that particular year with the Feast of the Visitation of Mary (2nd July), however, it wm celebrated in the spirit of a Marian festival. The gospel reading for the day Luke l, verses 39-56, was the story of the visit of Mary to Elisabeth - an extremely popular episode that was also often the subject of pictorial art: Elisabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, recognizes in Mary the future mother of the Messiah, and Mary sings a song of praise: “My soul doth magnify the Lord.”

The song of praise, referred to as the 'Magnificat' (after the beginning of the Latin text), has long occupied a place of prominence in the vesper liturgy. To this day it is sung in unison in the eight traditional psalm tones or in the so-called 'Tonus peregrinus' (ninth psalm tone; since the l5rh century, however there have also been innumerable arrangements for more than one voice, among them Johann Sebastian Bach's own well-known Magnificat, BWV243/243a, composed for the Leipzig Christmas vespers of 1723.

In the broadest sense. the cantata Meine Seel erhebt den Herren (My soul doth magnify the Lord) also belongs to these magnificat compositions, but it acquires its special character from its position as part of the chorale cantata year. Here, admittedly, it is immediately something of an exception because, strictly speaking, the basis of the cantata is not a hymn but a liturgical song without a song-like text structure, without metre to its verse and without rhyme - a Biblical prose text, sung on a recitation model that is not rhythmically fixed and consists of just two lines of melody, flexibly adapted to the requisite number of syllables. The model for the melody is the 'Tonus peregrinus'. At that time the text and melody were as familiar as the best-known hymns.

The opening chorus is based on the opening lines of the song of praise, with the words taken unchanged from Luther's translation of the Bible, and the traditional melody of the ninth psalm tone. The orchestral part is in the manner of a trio for two violins and basso continuo, in which the two upper parts constantly imitate other; the viola's only function is to fill out the harmony. Two oboes mostly imitate the first and second violins, and only come to the fore independently in brief episodes. The four-part chorus adapts itself to the orchestral writing. The liturgical melody is found a cantas firmus first in the soprano, then in the alto, and is particularly emphasized by Bach by means of an additional slide trumpet.

The other vocal parts form a web of polyphony that serves as counterpoint to the rather statuesque cantus firmus – the ‘fixed melody' - with lively motivic alternation. The overall character of the movement is festive, yet still marked by a certain liturgical strictness which does not prevent the rich ornamentation of central words such as 'freuet' ('rejoiced') or 'preisen' ('call me blessed') with agile melismas.

In terms of text, movements 2-4 are free adaptations and extensions of the original Biblical wording. The second movement, 'Herr, der du stark und mächtig bist' ('Lord, who are strong and mighty'), is a da capo aria for soprano in which, in a universalization of the original Biblical text, the Christian as it were places himself in the role of Mary and praises God for his strength, power and wondrous works. In the musically more reticent middle section, he praises the charitable acts that God has allowed to befall him in his hour of distress.

This beautiful (although, for a boy's voice, technically rather demanding) piece was the very first soprano aria in the chorale cantata year, and the congregation in Leipzig must thus have listened with particular attention.

The tenor recitative that follows (third movement) paraphrases the verses 'Und seine Barmhezigkeit währet immer für und für' ('And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation') and 'Er übet Gewalt mit seinem Arm' ('He hath showed strength with his arm'). In the process, Bach clearly raises up the word 'Gewalt' ('strength') from the flow of text and illustrates the image of the scattering of the chaff emphatically by means of a prolonged coloratura passage.

The content of the bass aria that follows (fourth movement) is based on the lines: 'Er stößt die Gewaltigen vom

Stuhl' ('God leaves the rich bare and empty') und 'De Hungrigen füllet er mit Gütern' ('The hungry he fills with gifts'). The bass voice is accompanied only by basso continuo, and the musical expression is determined by power and forcefulness. The striking theme in the instrumental bass line, descending melodically over two whole octaves, indicates the fall, a subject taken up by the vocal line - also with a flexible, downward-moving melodic line; elsewhere the 'Erhöhen' ('exaltation') of the humble is initiated by ascending motif and the words 'bloß und leer' ('bare and empty') are clarified by the use of pauses.

With the duet 'Er denket der Barmherzigkeit und hilft seinem Diener Israel auf' ('He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy'; fifth movement) Bach returns to the original wording from the Bible and also takes up the liturgical chorale melody. The melody is not sung, however but is played by the trumpet, like a quotation in this thematically free duet movement in which the altand tenor, Partnered by the basso continuo, present the text and, reflecting upon it, make it more profound. The theme played by the instrumental bass is characterized by sighing figures in the form of emphatic downward semitone intervals, like sighs of divine mercy. The two voices often sing in parallel sixths and thirds a musical expression of mildness, of compassion (similarly we find parallel sixths and thirds in the duet 'Et misericordia' ['Und seine Barmhezigkeit'/'And his compassion'] of the Magnificat, BWV 243). Bach himself must have regarded this movement 6 especially successful; he returned to it in a collection that was printed more than twenty years later – the Schübler Chorales (BWV 645-650), named after the engraver.

The text of the tenor recitative 'Was Gott den Vätern alter Zeiten' ('What God foretold and promised'; sixth movement) is based on the final verse of the song of praise. After the first part of the recitative, accompanied only by basso continuo, Bach adds strings with lively, shimmering chords for the words that deal with the fulfillment of the prophecy once given to Abraham: this string writing is evidently inspired by the poetic imagery in the text of the spread of Abraham's descendants 'wie Sand und Meer und Stem am Firmament' (as the sands of the sea and the stars in the firmament').

At the end of the cantata we hear the old chorale melody once more. The text is not part of Mary's song of praise but is the traditional words of praise for the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Ghost - which often conclude the Magnificat in the vespers too. The vocal parts and instrumental lines are combined in a simple four-part setting with a brief excursion into polyphony at the end; it ends solemnly with the words 'von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit. Amen' ('is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.').>> © Klaus Hofmann 2003


1Cantata 10 BCW Details & Discography,
2Mincham, Chapter 6 BWV 10 Mein Seel erhebt den Herren, The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: A listener and student guide, Revised 2014.
3Scoring; Soloists: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass; 4-part Chorus; Orchestra: trumpet, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola, continuo; Score Vocal & Piano [1.71 MB],; Score BGA [2.68 MB],; References BGA I (Church Cantatas 1-10, Mortiz Hauptmann ed., 1851), NBA KB I/28.2 (Visitation cantatas, Uwe Wolf ed., 1995; Bach Compendium BC A 175, |Zwang K 78. Provenance (Thomas Braatz, 2002), BCW; “There must have been a repeat performance of this cantata sometime between 1740 and 1747 (or perhaps even earlier)” with minor revisions.
4 Cantata 10 BCW Discussions Parts 2: Bibliography, Daw, The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach: The Choral Works Farliegh Dickinson Univ. Press: Rutherford NJ, 1981); and Whittaker, W. Gillies. The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach (Oxford University Press: London, 1958).

5 Gardiner notes,[sdg165_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details,
6 Hofmann liner notes,[BIS-CD1331].pdf; BCW Recording details,


To Come: Magnificat settings and chorales for the Feast of the Visitation of Mary.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 16, 2014):
Cantata 10, Modal melodies

William Hoffman wrote:
:< This setting of the Magnificat will have resonances for Christians of various sects, not only in the title and opening words of the first chorus ‘my soul does magnify the Lord’, but also in the closing chorale ‘as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end’. The term chorale is somewhat misleading since, although in its four-part versions it resembles a Lutheran hymn, its origins are far older, its roots lying in Gregorian chant (Dürr p 678). >
Bach's treatment of modal chant melodies is always fascinating. The best-known is the "joyful" Christ Lag In Todesbanden which operates within modal E minor ambit.

The Magnificat chorale is a even trickier. It is based on the psalm recitation tone known as the "Tonus Peregrinus" - the "wandering tone" - so called because the recitation note does not remain constant in the two halves of the melody, but shifts. This can be seen in the final chorale where the first line repeats D as the recitation note, but shifts to C in the second line. Both are repeated in the second half of the chorale.

This shifting tonal centre is handled in different ways in some of Bach's greatest works: this cantata, the great Magnificat Fugue, and "Suscepit Israel" in the Magnificat.

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 17, 2014):
Cantata BWV 10 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 10 “Meine Seel erhebt den Herren” for the Feast of Visitation of Mary on the BCW has been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists, 4-part Chorus and orchestra of trumpet, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola & continuo.

The revision includes:
* Adding many details, larger front & back cover photos, etc to existing recordings.
* Listing of all known issues of each recording
* Complete personnel of participants in the recordings: not only conductor, vocal & instrumental ensembles and vocal soloists, but also instrumental soloists, members of the ensembles, producers and recording engineers.
* Adding new recordings:
* Adding bio pages of “new” performers of this cantata
* Adding/updating relevant performer discography pages.
* Listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages (below the recording details)

The discography of Cantata BWV 10 is presented chronologically in 2 pages:
Complete Recordings (21):
Recordings of Individual Movements (14):

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 10 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.

William Hoffman wrote (June 17, 2014):
Cantata 10: Magnificat Settings & Chorales

Beyond the Christmas Festival, Bach’s most active time presenting music in the church year in Leipzig may have been the Feast of the Visitation of Mary on July 2. Falling in mid-summer eight days after the Feast of John the Baptist in the midst of the austere omnes tempore early Trinity Time, these two de tempore events observing the life of Christ formed a sort-of festive “half-Christmas” when no other major civic events, such as seasonal fairs, were held. The Marian Visitation festival in particular had a wealthy Lutheran history and practice as a festival main service and the weekend vesper service. Musical settings of Mary’s Magnificat canticle or “Song of Praise” also were performed in Leipzig in Bach’s time during 15 de tempore feast days of the three-day Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost major feasts, the three Marian fests (, Annunciation, and Visitation) and the lesser feasts of New Year’s Day, Epiphany, Ascension, Trinity, John the Baptist, and St. Michael.1

Bach responded with major Latin and German Italianate cantata versions of Mary’s Magnificat canticle, respectively the Latin Magnificat in E-Flat, BWV 243a for Christmas Day 1723 with four “laudes” interpolated songs; Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243, probably premiered on the Feast of the Visitation, July 2, 1733, and the German Lutheran Magnificat chorale Cantata BWV 10, “Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn” (My Soul magnifies the Lord), in his second Leipzig Visitation service of July 2, 1724. For his first Visitation service, July 2, 1723, Bach presented the festive two-part chorus Cantata BWV 147, known as “Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,” possibly his signature piece. In addition, various other German settings of the Magnificat in Leipzig were presented or linked to Bach (Johann Kuhnau, Johann Mathesson, Georg Melchior Hofmann) while later his sons – Friedemann, Emmanual and Johann Christian -- carried on his Magnificat musical tradition with his and their works.

There are at least five settings extant of Bach's use of the text and/or melody of "Meine Seel' erhebt den Herren" (NLGB No. 153, Visitation). Bach listed "Meine Seel' erhebt den Herren" in the Orgelbüchlein (OB 56, Visitation) but not set. A two-line setting (melody and basso continuo) is found in the c.1740 Sebastian Bach Choralbuch as SBCB2 for Advent.

*A. Schubler organ chorale, BWV 648a=10/5 (1748-49), see C below (Mvt. 5);
*B. Miscellaneous organ chorale prelude, BWV 733 (1700/17)
*C. Chorale Cantata BWV 10 (Purification 1724): Bach used the melody and text in Mvt. 1, “Meine Seel' erhebt den Herren" chorale chorus (S.1), Mvt. 5, AT duet (S.8, “Er denket dem Barmherzigkeit”)=BWV 648 (Schubler), Mvt. 7, plain chorale (S. 10-11), “Lob und Preis sei Gott dem Vater” (Doxology) in g minor (see BCW, Chorales used in Bach’s Vocal Works.;
*D. Plain Chorale, Bach setting, BWV 324 (Luke 1:46-47), BCW, “Movements from Bach's Vocal Works,”; and
E. Untexted chorale melody (tp.), BWV 243a/10, SA trio aria, Suscepit Israel (Christmas 1723), see BCW, “Movements from Bach's Vocal Works,”

The Cantata BWV 10 anonymous librettist’s text cites three stanzas of Luther’s Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn”:

1. chorale chorus fantasia (Stanza 1)
Meine Seel erhebt den Herren,
My soul praises the Lord,
Und mein Geist freuet sich Gottes, meines Heilandes;
and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour;
Denn er hat seine elende Magd angesehen.
for he has looked upon his wretched handmaiden.
Siehe, von nun an werden mich selig preisen alle Kindeskind.
See, from now all children's children will praise me as blessed.

5. AT duet (Stanza 8):
Er denket der Barmherzigkeit
He remembers his mercy
Und hilft seinem Diener Israel auf.
and raises up his servant Israel.

7. Plain chorale Doxology (Stanza 10)
Lob und Preis sei Gott dem Vater und dem Sohn
Glory and praise be to God the Father and to the Son
Und dem Heilgen Geiste,
and to the Holy Spirit
Wie es war im Anfang, jetzt und immerdar
as it was in the beginning, now and forever
Und von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit. Amen
and from eternity to eternity. Amen.

Bach’s setting of the German Magnificat Doxology, “Lob und Preis sei Gott dem Vater und dem Sohn,” 22 measures in g minor in 1724, (Canatata 10/7) became the basis for two shorter harmonizations of the German Magnificat, “Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn,” BWV 324 (first two lines only), and the German Doxology, “Gott sei uns gnädig und barmherzig,” “BWV 323 (three stanzas), where the first line (even-number) of Luther’s original two-line chant (choir and congregation alternate) is adapted (see BCW, Chorales used in Bach’s Vocal Works. Both BWV 324 and 323 are based on settings also found in Rhau, Enchriridion 1535 and Klug Gesangbuch 1535. See BCW, Luther’s three verses, based on Numbers 6:24-26, concluding with the German Doxology, Luther’s “Meine Seel erhebt den Herren” Stanza 10, above):

Bach composed a plain chorale four-part harmonization with chant of Luther’s “Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn,” BWV 324. Bach’s setting of 10 measures in G Major uses the first two lines (Luke 1:46-47), “Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn, / und mein Geist freuet sich Gottes, meines Heilands.” (See BCW, Movements from Bach’s Vocal Works,; and Score copy, Margaret Greentree, Versions of the music are found at NBA KB III/2.2 No. 324, Breitkopf No. 121, Terry No. 245, Riemenschneider No. 130.

The similar 10-bar Bach harmonization in F-Sharp Major of Benediction Psalm 67, “Gott sei uns gnädig und barmherzig” Deus misereatur (God be merciful unto us and bless us), BWV 323 (See BCW, Movements from Bach's Vocal Works, and Score copy, Margaret Greentree, Versions of the music are found at NBA KB III/2.2 No. 323, Breitkopf No. 121, Terry No. 246, Riemenschneider No. 320. Test is

1. Gott sei uns gnädig und barmherzig / Und geb uns seinen göttlichen Segen.
May God be merciful and compassionate for us / and give us his divine blessing.
2. Er lasse uns sein Antlitz leuchten, / Daß wir auf Erden erkennen seine Wege.
May he let his face shine upon us / so that on earth we may know his
3. Es segne uns Gott, unser Gott, / Es segne uns Gott und geb uns seinen Frieden. Amen.
May God bless us, our God, / May God bless us and give us his peac
e. Amen
[Benediction with two-verse Doxology, Francis Browne English translation, BCW,]

Lutheran Magnificat Tradition

The Lutheran tradition of observing the Visitation feast dates to Martin Luther who adapted the Latin chant with antiphon, Mary’s canticle, Magnificat anima mea Dominum (My soul doth magnify the Lord, Luke 1:46-55), to the German vernacular as “Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn” (My Soul magnifies the Lord), Luther's antiphon, nine stanzas & Lesser Doxology (1532, Vespers), uses a melody chant adaptation tonus peregrinus (falsobordon), associated with Psalm 114, “In exitu Israel” (When Israel came out of Egypt, KJV). It begins with the Antiphon: “Christus, unsern Heiland, ewigen Gott, Marien Sohn, preisen wir in Ewigkeit” (Amen). It was first published in the Georg Rhau, Enchriridion 1535 and Joseph Klug Gesangbuch 1535. Luther text (Luke 1:46-55) and music, including antiphon and closing Doxology, see BCW, Chorales used in Bach’s Vocal Works. Luther original text:

Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn,
und mein Geist freuet sich Gottes, meines Heilands.
Denn er hat die Niedrigkeit seiner Magd angesehen.
Siehe, von nun an werden mich selig preisen alle Kindeskinder.
Denn er hat große Dinge an mir getan, der da mächtig ist
und des Name heilig ist.
Und seine Barmherzigkeit währet immer für und für
bei denen, die ihn fürchten.
Er übet Gewalt mit seinem Arm
und zerstreut, die hoffärtig sind in ihres Herzens Sinn.
Er stößt die Gewaltigen vom Stuhl
und erhebt die Niedrigen.
Die Hungrigen füllt er mit Gütern
und lässt die Reichen leer.
Er denkt der Barmherzigkeit
und hilft seinem Diener Israel auf,
wie er geredet hat unsern Vätern,
Abraham und seinem Samen ewiglich.


Ehre dem Vater und dem Sohne und dem Heiligen Geiste,
wie es war im Anfang, jetzt und immerdar und von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit. Amen.

English translation (NIV)
“My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”, click on “Add parallel”

The Canticles or Sacred Songs of Scripture as the basis for the Magnificat was established in Luther’s introductory preface to the section of biblical canticles that first appeared in the 1529 Gesangbuch, says Robin A. Leaver in Luther’s Liturgical Music: Principles and Implications.2 “The choice of the specific tone for each canticle was important because both text and tone undergirded the basic hermeneutic that Luther wanted the people who sang them to understand.”

Luther’s 1532 setting of “Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn”, as well as a 1532 setting of Luther’s melody to the German paraphrase of Benediction Psalm 67, “Gott sei uns gnädig und barmherzig” (May God be merciful and compassionate), fostered a tradition of vocal settings. The next major publication following the Klug Wittenberg hymnal of 1533, with a wide variety of canticles from both the Old and New Testaments which inspired Bach, was John Walther’s Magnificat octo tonorum of 1540, Walther Sämtliche Werke SW 4. This collection of the first cantor of the Lutheran Church (1496-1570) consisted of eight settings for four voices (one for five voices) on the even numbered verses of the canticle in simple homophonic fa-bourdon style. Later in 1557 the settings were completed with the publication of Magnificat octo tonorum, SW 5, containing four, five, and sax-voice settings faa the even-numbered verses in Latin. Settings in the 5th, 7th, and 8th modes have complete settings of the Gloria Patri Doxology.

The importance of Lutheran Marian Theology is outlined in Wikipedia ( “Lutheran Marian theology is derived from Martin Luther's views of Jesus' mother, Mary. It was developed out of the deep Christian Marian devotion on which he was reared, and it was subsequently clarified as part of his mature Christocentric theology and piety.[1] Lutherans hold Mary in high esteem. Luther dogmatically asserted what he considered firmly established biblical doctrines like the divine motherhood of Mary while adhering to pious opinions of her perpetual virginity and immaculate conception along with the caveat that all doctrine and piety should exalt and not diminish the person and work of Jesus Christ. The emphasis was always placed on Mary as merely a receiver of God's love and favor.[2] His opposition to regarding Mary as a mediatrix of intercession or redemption was part of his greater and more extensive opposition to the belief that the merits of the saints could be added to those of Jesus Christ to save humanity.[3]”

“The Lutheran views on the veneration of Mary were interpreted differently by different theologians over time. Key is his interpretation of the Magnificat of Mary, which to some is a relic of the Catholic past, but to others a clear indication, that he maintained a Marian piety.[5] Luther states in his Magnificat, that one should pray to Mary, so God would give and do, through her will, what we ask. But, he adds, it is God’s work alone.[5] Some interpret his Magnificat as a personal supplication to Mary, but not as a prayerful request for mediation. An important indicator of Luther’s views on the veneration of Mary are not only his writings but also approved practices of Lutherans during his lifetime. The singing of the Magnificat in Latin was maintained in many German Lutheran communities. The Church Order (Kirchenordnung) of Brandenburg, Bugenhagen Braunschweig and other cities and districts decreed by the royal heads of the Lutheran Church, maintained three Marian feast days, to be observed as public holidays.[5]”

The development of the German Magnificat, “Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn,” is found in the extensive BCW article, “Chorales used in Bach’s Vocal Works.” The Use of the Chorale Melody by other composers includes: Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612): Meine Seele erhebt den Herren, 4-pt setting (1608); Michael Praetorius (1571-1621): Meine Seele erhebt den Herren, 4-pt setting (1607); Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672): Meine Seele erhebt den Herren, Score and Parts; Tobias Zeutschner (1621-1675): Cantata: Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn Cantus à 13 ou 19; Werner Fabricius (1633-1679): Meine Seele erhebt for 9 voice parts; and Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706): Meine Seele erhebt den Herren as, 2 Chorale Preludes for Organ. In all, Schütz composed at four different vocal settings of the Song of Mary (SWV 344, 426, 468, 494 Schwanengesang), three in German and one, BWV 468, in Latin as Magnificat anima mea, sacred concerto.

Other Magnificats

Three other German Magnificat paraphrase cantatas have been linked to Bach. A setting possibly by Johann Mattheson, "Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn," libretto by Erdmann Neumeister, was performed in Leipzig on July 2, 1725, based on a surviving libretto book. It possibly was lead by Georg Balthasar Schott, music director of the progressive Leipzig New Church and Kuhnau's successor. Bach also was listed as the composer of two other German paraphrase cantatas now attributed to Georg Melchior Hoffmann (Telemann successor as music director at the Leipzig Neue Kirche, 1704-15). These two with unknown librettists and no known Leipzig performance dates are: tenor solo Cantata BWV 189, "Meine Seele rühmt und preist" (My soul extols and praises) with three repeat ABA arias, and BWV Anh. 21, "Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn," known as the "Little German Magnificat. Musical Context of Bach Cantatas, Motets& Chorales for Feast of Visitation of Mary, BCW

In addition, Bach’s predecessor, Johann Kuhnau, composed a Latin Magnificat in C Major. “Although Bach’s work differs radically from Kuhnau’s in every respect, Bach did adopt from Kuhnau’s work the text and style of the Christmas interpolations with which the Magnificat [BWV 243a] is troped,” says Dr. Andreas Bomba in the liner notes to the Helmut Rilling Bachakademie Edition, (see BCW,, scroll down to V-16, No. 73.

Works Bach May Have Performed on the Feast of the Visitation (June 2):3

+Chorus Cantata BWV 147 "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben" (Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life) (1723, Friday); repeats 1730 (Trinity 4) and 1735-40;
+Chorale Cantata BWV 10, "Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn" (1724, Fourth Sunday after Trinity), repeat 1740-47;
+Anonymous Cantata, "Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn (My soul magnifies the Lord, Neumeister libretto) (1725, Monday);
+ Johann Ludwig Bach Cantata JLB-13, "Der Herr wird ein Neues im Lande erschaffen Judah" (As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah) (1726, Tuesday);
+Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243, ?July 2, 1733, no documentation of succeeding performance at Visitation;
+Two Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel cantatas from different churccycles, performed in 1736 and possibly 1737. On July 2, 1736, Bach performed Stölzel two-part cantata, "Groß sind die Werke des Herren" (Great are the works of the Lord, Psalm 111:2), with Part 2 beginning, "Ich freue mich in den Herrn" (I delight greatly in the Lord, Isaiah 61:10) from the cantata cycle "Das Namenbuch Christi," (Book of Names of Christ), using a Benjamin Schmolck text with chorales closing both parts.
+Antonio Caldara's <Magnificat> in D Major (Bach added two parts for violins in Movement No. 3, <Suscepit Israel puerum suum> (He protects Israel, his servant), BWV 1082, performed about 1739-42.

Bach's Sons and Magnificat

Three of Bach's sons were involved in Visitation/early Trinty Time music of their father or composed their own Magnificat settings:

1. Oldest son Friedemann did a partial parody of the opening chorus, "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben" (Herz und Mund kan sich nun laben), Cantata BWV 147a/1, as the third and concluding movement of a pasticcio Catechism Sermon Cantata, Fk. 77, performed in Halle in 1752 (David Schulenberg, Music of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (New York: University of Rochester Press, 2010: 204). Friedemann apparently copied his father's music from the original version of Cantata 147, composed in Weimar in 1716 for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, since the scoring omits the two oboes added in Leipzig for Visitation 1723 (music printed in NBA KB I/28.2, Kantaten zu Marienfest II, e. Ute Wolf, 1995: 110ff).

Friedemann also parodied the opening alto aria (slumber song) of Cantata BWV 170, "Vergnugte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust" (Wie ruhig ist doch meine Seele), originally composed in 1726 for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity. Friedemann composed the music for the second (middle movement) as a recitative. Philipp Spitta suggested the three-movement "transformation" "may have been performed [by Bach] in 1742, when the Visitation (July 2) followed immediately upon the Sixth Sunday after Trinity (July 1)" [JSB: II:454, Dover, 1979].

2. Youngest son Johann Christian Bach's Magnificat 4 in C major, CW E22, dates to 1760 when he was an organist in Milan composing music for Catholic services following his conversion. His work is published as Hänssler Verlag 38.101 (no date) and is catalogued as T 207/3, the last of three Magnificats in C Major. A YouTube recording is

3. Second-oldest son Carl Philipp Emmanuel conducted in a benefit Lenten concert in late March 1786 in Hamburg his arrangement of the <Credo> from his father's <Mass in B Minor>, and three of his own works after intermission: a symphony, a < Magnificat> and the famous setting of <Heilig> (Sanctus). He also possessed both versions of Sebastian's <Magnficat," BWV 243(a). C.P.E. Bach Magnificat in D Major, Wq 215 (1786); Hänssler Verlag HE 33.215]

1. Magnificat
2. Quia respexit
3. Quia fecit
4. Et misericordia eius
5. Fecit potentiam
6. Deposuit potentes
7. Suscepit Israel
8. Gloria
9. Sicut erat


Fugitive Note:

In the early omnes tempore Trinity Time Sundays of Gospel lessons on Lutheran teachings, the resulting chorale cantatas tended to suffer both musically and literarily, particularly without the familiar chorales of the great de tempore feasts of Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. For the first two months of Trinity Time, until the 9th Sunday after Trinity, Bach relied on a text-writing "group, possibly by various authors and of inferior poetic quality," says Artur Hirsch in “Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantatas in Chronological Order,” BACH,” The Journal of the Riemenschneider Institute 11 (July1980: 18-35), "Texts by Bach" (p. 19). The Streck dissertation information is: Die Verskunst in den poetischen Texten zu den Kantaten J. S. Bachs

Streck, Harald. - Hamburg : Wagner, 1971 (Hamburger Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft;5).


1 Günther Stiller, Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leizig (Concordia Publoishing: St. Louis MO, 1985:65).
2 Leaver, Luther’s Liturgical Music (William B. Eerdmans Publishing: Grand Rapids MI, 2007: 260ff).

3 BCW, "Dates in Bach's Lifetime, "Mariä Heimsuchung" (Feast of Visitation of Mary),


Cantata BWV 10: Meine Seel erhebt den Herren for Feast of Visitation of Mary
Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Article: Using Composition Theory to Analyze a Work by J.S. Bach [J. Reese]

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


Back to the Top

Last update: Saturday, September 30, 2017 00:20