J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Magnificat in E flat Major

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Simon Preston
Accompaniment/Orchestra:The Academy of Ancient Music with the Choir of ChristChurch Cathedral, Oxford
Soloists:Judith Nelson, soprano
Emma Kirkby, soprano
Carolyn Watkinson, contralto
Paul Elliott, tenor
David Thomas, bass
Individual Works:J.S.Bach: Magnificat in E flat major, BWV 243a
KUHNAU: Der Gerechte kommt um
VIVALDI: Nulla in mundo pax sincera RV 630
VIVALDI: Nisi Dominus RV 608
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:L'Oiseau-Lyre
Catalog Number:414 678-2
REISSUE: 443 199-2
Year Released/Recorded:1978
Total Playing Time:76'19
The Penguin Guide (1992): "The Original version of the Magnificat is textually different in detail (quite apart from being a semitone higher) and has four interpolations for the celebration of Christmas. Preston and the Christ Church Choir is in excellent form. One might quibble at the use of women solists instead of boys, but these three specialist singers have just the right incisive timber and provide the insight of experience." In my opinion, the Gardiner performance is the best one I know, and therefore I would recommand that recording to those who don't know the piece yet. Preston's performance is not as bright as Gardiner's and it is more "historically justified". However, it is not a bad performence at all, and Kirkby's admirers wouldn't miss her jazzy-like "Quia respexit", which is really well done.
This performance of the Magnificat is slower and thicker textured than the Gardiner on Philips or Parrott on EMI/Virgin, partly due to the use of boy choristers from the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. The boys' voices are not always cleanly on pitch, especially in large fugal sections, and this may turn off some listeners. On the other hand, recordings of the E flat version of the Magnificat are hard to come by and with the couplings offered on this mid-price reissue, it is hard to refute the worth of this disc in any collection. Emma Kirkby is radiant as ever as the soprano soloist, and the choral sound is very nice on the lovely, slower Christmas interpolations. The orchestral sound is bright and infectious. The couplings (especially the Vivaldi "Nulla in mundo...") are beautiful in their own rights and definitely a delightful bonus as fill-ups. Not a top-choice recording if you're looking for your first Magnificat (I would recommend Parrott or Herreweghe) but a worthwile disc given its uniqueness.
Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Nimrod Ben-ze'ev
  • Michael Kim
Date First Submitted:05/13/1997