Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Baroque Magnificat -- Ensemble européen William Byrd

This astonishing composition by Polish composer Mikolaj Zielenski was published in Venice in 1611, four-hundred years ago. Here it is performed by the Ensemble européen William Byrd under the direction of Graham O'Reilly.

The Magnificat, also known as the Canticle of Mary, is one of the oldest hymns in Christendom, recording the words used by the Mother of God as she announced her pregnancy to her cousin Elizabeth, who was also pregnant with a son who would grow to become John the Baptist.

Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name. And His mercy is upon those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm, He has scattered the proud in his imagination of their hearts, He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever."


  1. Stunningly beautiful!

    Of course, during the Baroque period, instruments weren't yet tempered. Therefore, what people actually heard back then wasn't as "pleasant" as the versions we hear today.