Program Notes:

From the published score: Nicola Antonio Porpora was born in Naples, August 17, 1686 and died there March 3, 1768. At the age of ten he entered the Conservatorio dei Poverie de Gesu Christe at Naples where he was a student of Gaetano Greco, Matteo Biordano and Ottavio Campanile. During a long life dedicated to composition, performance, and teaching (Joseph Haydn was one of his voice students), Porpora composed 44 operas, 11 oratorios and numerous masses and motets. In 1733 he was engaged by the directors of the “Opera of the Nobility” in London which had been organized as a rival company ot that of Georg Frideric Handel. During the period from 1726 to 1739 Porpora was engaged as a teacher of music by the “Ospedale degli Incurabili”, one of four famous Venetian orphanages renowned for their high level of musical performance. The orchestras and choirs of these asylums were composed of girl inmates. The “Magnificat” was composed for the aforementioned orphanage and received its first performance there.

Conductor Notes:

Scored for SSAA, string orchestra and organ, this is a multi-sectioned work of about 9 minutes that has some very satisfying moments in it and some challenges. We performed this with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in 1996 and again in 2011. The tessitura for the first sopranos is relentlessly high, which was made much better when we got to the final rehearsals and performance at baroque pitch. But during rehearsals I found I kept having to find ways to give them some rest. The second alto part has fun singing a true baroque bass line, unless they are disappointed to be doubled throughout the piece by the bass instruments of the orchestra. In spite of these problems, there are lots of opportunities to teach baroque phrasing, and the effect of the piece to the audience is energetic and brilliant. Particularly beautiful is the “Et misericordia” section. You can either rent the full score and orchestral parts at or buy them from your music retailer.


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Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)

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.


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.