Magnificat

  • Composer: Isabella Leonarda 
  • Publisher: IMSLP
  • Canadian Composition: No
  • Duration: 9:50

Conductor Notes:

Leonarda’s Magnificat is a masterful, 10-minute setting utilizing the two violins and continuo. Scored for SATB with no solos, we put our Soprano 2 section on the top line, Alto 1 on the alto line, our Soprano 1s on the tenor line up the octave, and the Alto 2s on the bass line, also up the octave. The result was a very satisfying texture that did not place any singers into a difficult range.

Like most composers of a Magnificat setting, Leonarda’s score clearly delineates each line of text according to its affect. The opening is grand, reflecting “I magnify”, and when, a few seconds later, our spirit is rejoicing, it is doing so in a lighter, triple meter. The line that starts “All generations” gets a busy, rhythmic texture reflecting a multitude of people. When we sing about “his mercy”, it is slower and serious. She makes the most of the contrast between “He hath shown strength with his arm” (a fast, repeated “Deposiit, deposuit, deposuit…”) and “He has filled the hungry with good things” (“Esurientes implevit bonus”). And, like most composers, Leonarda extends “is now and ever shall be. Amen.” at the end.

I highly recommend this work for a choir that is ready to embark on the virtuosic music of this era, and to get to know Isabella Leonarda’s music. One of the Elektra singers reset the score so the alto 2s didn’t have to read bass clef. I am planning to put some finishing touches and make it available. Please inquire if you’re interested.

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Text

Magnificat anima mea Dominum.
Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae:
ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est:
et sanctum nomen ejus.
Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam in bracchio suo:
dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis: et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae.
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semini ejus in saecula.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum, Amen.

Translation

My soul magnifies the Lord.
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:
for behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he who is mighty has done great things for me; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud, even the arrogant of heart.
He has deposed the mighty from their seats, and exalted the humble.
The hungry he has filled with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy.
As it was spoken to our fathers, to Abraham and his seed forever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.