For its next concerts, which will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in First United Methodist Church at 305 E. Anapamu St., the Santa Barbara Master Chorale has had the brilliant inspiration to pair two magnificent Magnificats by two great composers named Bach.
Under the title “Bach to Bach Magnificats!” the Master Chorale, with soloists, orchestra and choraus under the direction of Steven Hodson, will perform the Magnificat in D-Major, BWV 243 (1733) by Johann Sebastian Bach and the Magnificat in D-Major, H-772 (1749) by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.
The Magnificat is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns. The text comes from the Gospel of St. Luke and is possibly the earliest Marian hymn.
The name comes from the first word of the Latin version, taken from the Gospel of Luke (1:46-55) — in the King James Version: “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” Since the 17th century at least, the text has inspired great works from great composers, and lesser composers to exceed their previous efforts.
Everybody knows Sebastian Bach’s setting of the hymn. Even amid a choral oeuvre of unparalleled majesty, it stands out in the memory of music lovers. Yet, it is also the most accessible of all his sacred works.
In some passages — the “Esurientes,” for example — the work achieves the charm and simplicity of folk-song, but even in the sudden and dramatic power burst of “Omnes Generationes” he never beats you over the head with the might of you-know-who. Thus the mediating influence of Mary on Christian art. Carl Bach’s Magnificat, in the same key, was written in 1749, while his father was still alive, and is clearly an homage to him.
Yet the two works are very different — not so much in their spirit, as in the sound universe they inhabit (and glorify). Carl Bach’s Magnificat is both longer and faster than his father’s, and we are swept through it on a shimmering stream of grace.
Tickets for the concert will be available at Chaucer’s Bookstore, Santa Barbara Sheet Music and at the door, at a cost of $22 for general admission, $20 for seniors and disabled and $12 for college students with ID, with children K-12 admitted free. For more information or to reserve tickets, call 805.967.8287.