Jan R. Luth: Did Buxtehude’s Magnificat primi toni have a liturgical function?

by Jan R. Luth | Het ORGEL | Year 95 | (1999) | Issue 21


Jan R. Luth Did Buxtehude’s Magnificat primi toni have a liturgical function?
het ORGEL 95 (1999), nr. 6, 15-19 [summary]

Did Buxtehude’s Magnificat primi toni have aliturgical function or was it used as a solo piece? Josef Hedar remarks in his edition ofBuxtehude’s organ works that the key often changes, which makes it difficult for achorus to enter at the proper pitch. Matthias Schneider and Kerala Snyder also think thatthe Magnificat was played solo. Schneider says that there might be a connection betweenthe form (two parts, divided by a Lento) and liturgical traditions: but otherwise than inthe rest of Germany, the chorus did not alternate with the organ in Hamburg, where themelody of Buxtehude’s Magnificat originated. Snyder writes that an alternatimperformance of the Magnificat would have been unusual in Lübeck and that the Magnificatwas played in concerts on holidays at the end of the 17th century. Church ordinances donot provide sufficient information to answer our question. The ordinance of Bugenhagen(1529), on which that of Hamburg was based, states simply that the organist should play‘den hymnum magnificat’ in the evening. Other ordinances, from the 17th century,show that the organist played the Magnificat in afternoon service as well. The expressionused is ‘dazwischenschlagend’, and seems to point at an alternatim performance,but can also mean that the organist improvised at the appropriate moments. Like Hedar,another fact argues for using Buxtehude’s Magnificat as a solo piece: the two partsdo not correspond with the complete lines of the Magnificat, but concentrate on motives ofthese lines. Conclusion: Buxtehude’s Magnificat is written as a solo piece that mightbe played in connection with a vocal performance of the Magnificat or instead of it.