Magnificat (Vivaldi)

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by Antonio Vivaldi
Vivaldi La Cave.jpg
The composer on a 1725 etching by François Morellon de La Cave
KeyG minor
CatalogueRV 610, 610a, 610b, 611
TextMagnificat, Doxology
Composedc1715 (c1715), c1730 (c1730) and 1739 (1739): Venice

Antonio Vivaldi made several versions of his G minor setting of the Magnificat canticle. He scored his best known version,[1] RV 610, for vocal soloists, four-part choir, oboes and string orchestra, which also exists in a version for two groups of performers (in due cori, RV 210a). He based these versions on an earlier setting for voices and strings only (RV 610b). His ultimate version, in which some choral and ensemble movements are replaced by five arias, to be sung a cappella by girls from the Ospedale della Pietà orphanage, was catalogued as RV 611. The concise work is well suited for use in vesper services.


Versions of Vivaldi's Magnificat in G minor[2]
RV Scoring Additional info
610 2s, a, t, SATB, 2ob, str late 1720s – early 1730s
610a s, t, SATB, 2ob, str + 2s, a, SATB, str
610b 2s, a, t, b, SATB, str earliest version (c. 1715)
611 s, a, t, SATB latest version (1739)


Vivaldi worked in Venice as a priest and director of music at an orphanage for girls, Ospedale della Pietà, and left a substantial amount of sacred music.[3]

Ospedale della Pietà

He composed settings of the Magnificat canticle, a regular part of vesper services.[4][5] Musicologists differ in dating the works, for example before 1717[6] or in 1719.[7] According to the musicologist Michael Talbot, Vivaldi wrote the earliest version in G minor for the orphanage c. 1715, and copied it for a Cistercian monastery of Osek soon afterwards.[4] He revised it in the 1720s, making the tenor and bass parts more suitable to male voices, and adding two oboes, which he used prominently as obbligato instruments in an expanded version of "Sicut locutus est". This version became known as RV 610. While Vivaldi assigned two choirs, with instructions in the choral movements to use one or the other or both, it remains monochoral music.[4] Vivaldi wrote a later setting, RV 611, which retained the choral sections but replaced the three sections for solo voices by five more elaborate arias,[4][8] in which individual girls from the orphanage could show off their skills. Their names were noted in the score.[3]

Structure and scoring[edit]

Vivaldi structured the Magnificat, RV 610, in nine movements, eight for the text of the canticle (Luke 1:46-55) and the conclusion for the doxology. Set in G minor, it is scored for two soprano soloists, alto and tenor soloists, SATB choir, violin I and II, viola, and basso continuo, such as cello and a keyboard instrument. The following table shows the title, voices, tempo marking, time, key and text source for the nine movements. A performance requires approximately 15 minutes.[9] A performance of RV 611, with the elaborate arias, takes around 20 minutes.[9]

Movements of Vivaldi's Magnificat, RV 610
No. Title Voices Tempo Time Key Text source Audio
1 Magnificat SATB Adagio common time G minor Luke 1:46 1
2 Et exultavit
  • s
  • a
  • t
Allegro common time B-flat major Luke 1:47-49 2
3 Et misericordia SATB Andante molto common time C minor Luke 1:50 3
4 Fecit potentiam SATB Presto 3/4 A major Luke 1:51 4
5 Deposuit potentes de sede SATB (unisono) Allegro 3/4 G minor Luke 1:52 5
6 Esurientes implevit bonis
  • s
  • s
Allegro common time B-flat major Luke 1:53 6
7 Suscepit Israel SATB Largo common time D minor Luke 1:54 7
8 Sicut locutus est SAB Allegro ma poco common time F major Luke 1:55 8
9 Gloria patri SATB Largo cut time G minor Doxology 9


17th-century painting of the Visitation

Vivaldi interpreted each verse of the Magnificat canticle with different musical material but kept the work concise.[4][5] Michael Talbot characterised the movements in liner notes:[4]


The first movement expresses the magnification, "Magnificat anima mea Dominum" (My soul magnifies the Lord), with a striking upward chromatic passage in slow tempo.[3][4]


In the second movement, three passages of the verse are given to different solo voices in an aria a tre. "Et exultavit spiritus meus" (And my spirit rejoices) is sung by the soprano, "Quia respexit humilitatem" (because he regarded the humility of his servant) by the alto, with a choral entry to illustrate "omnes generationes" (all generations), and the passage "Quia fecit mihi magna" (because he did great things for me) by the tenor.[3][4]


The third movement, "Et misericordia ejus", speaks of the mercy of the Lord for all who fear him. Both mercy and fear are expressed in a dense tecture of imitative music, with chromatic lines and leaps of minor sixths and major sevenths, called "anguished intervals".[3][4]


The fourth movement, "Fecit potentiam" (He exerts power), is a fast, powerful choral movement.[3]


The next verse, "Deposuit potentes", describes how the mighty are thrown from their seats while the humble are exalted. Vivaldi expresses it in graphically dramatic unison lines of the choir.[3][4]


In the sixth movement, "Esurientes implevit bonis", a duet of sopranos, often in parallel lines, illustrates how the hungry are filled with good things, on an ostinato figure in the bass line.[3][4]


The seventh movement, "Suscepit Israel", is a short chorale movement saying that the Lord sustains Israel, adding in a faster middle section "Recordatus misericordiae suae" (remembering his mercy).[3][4]


The eighth movement, "Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros" (As He has promised our fathers), is a cheerful trio for three soloists and two obbligato oboes.[4] A reviewer described the lines of oboes and bassoon as "bubbly", in dialogue with "lively transparent vocal lines".[5]


The final movement adds the traditional doxology on the biblical text "Gloria Patri" (Glory to the Father). The music recalls the beginning of the first movement, with a long chromatic melisma on "sancto" (holy). "Sicut erat in principio" (As it was in the beginning) is also reminiscent of the first movement but leads to a traditional double fugue treatment of "Et in saecula saeculorum" (and for ever and ever) in one voice and simultaneously "Amen" in another.[3][4]


Carus-Verlag published two versions of Vivaldi's Magnificat, RV 610 and RV 611, in 1978.[10] Bärenreiter published an arrangement of both versions for voices and organ in 2004.[9]

Selected Recordings[edit]

In 1964 a version by Carlo Felice Cillario conducting the Angelicum Chamber Orchestra featuring soloists Emilia Cundari, Angela Vercelli, and Anna Maria Rota was released.[11] This recording was released in the United States in 1968 by Musical Heritage Society.[12] In 1994, a recording was made by The King's Consort and Choir, conducted by Robert King.[4] A 2002 recording was performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir with soloists and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Tonu Kaljuste.[5] In 2015, the work was recorded, along with Vivaldi's Gloria, by Le Concert Spirituel conducted by Herve Niquet.[13] The soprano and alto choir sections perform the solo movements in this performance, which was also presented at the Festival Oude Muziek in Utrecht.[14]


  1. ^ Ellis-Williams, Huw (2016). OCR AS And A Level Music Study Guide. Maria Johnson, Susan Roberts. London: Music Sales. ISBN 978-1-78323-893-4. OCLC 1020025581.
  2. ^ Talbot, Michael, ed. (2011), The Vivaldi Compendium, Boydell Press, ISBN 9781843836704, pp. 112113 and 226
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Horn, Paul (23 October 1978). "Foreword" (PDF). Carus-Verlag. p. 3. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Talbot, Michael (1994). "Magnificat, RV610a". Hyperion Records. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d Hugill, Robert (February 2013). "Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) / Kyrie, RV 587 / Gloria in D Major, RV 589 / Credo, RV 591 / Magnificat RV 610". Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  6. ^ Heller, Karl (1997). Antonio Vivaldi: The Red Priest of Venice. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 88. ISBN 978-1-57467-015-8.
  7. ^ Adams, Susan (2011). Vivaldi: Red Priest of Venice. Lion Books. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-7459-5353-3.
  8. ^ Kolneder, Walter (1970). Antonio Vivaldi: His Life and Work. University of California Press. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-520-01629-3.
  9. ^ a b c "Vivaldi, Antonio / Magnificat RV 610/611 / Arranged for Soloists, Choir and Organ". Bärenreiter. 2004. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  10. ^ "Antonio Vivaldi: Magnificat / RV 610". Carus-Verlag. 1978. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  11. ^ Antonio Vivaldi - – Nisi Dominus / Magnificat In G Minor: Carlo Felice Cillario, Orchestra Da Camera Dell'Angelicum – Nisi Dominus / Magnificat. Angelicum LPA 5917
  12. ^ Antonio Vivaldi - Nisi Dominus & Magnificat in G Minor: Anna Maria Rota, Ferruccio De Poli, Emilia Cundari, Angela Vercelli, Turin Polyphonic Choir, Angelicum Chamber Orchestra, Carlo Felice Cillario. Musical Heritage Society MHS 834
  13. ^ "Vivaldi: Gloria; Magnificat / Vivaldi / Le Concert Spirituel / Herve Niquet". ArkivMusic. 2016. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  14. ^ Veen, Johan van (2016). "Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741): "Gloria - Magnificat"". Retrieved 13 November 2019.

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