Finzi’s Magnificat Op 36 has the distinction of being his only foreign commission. He wrote it in response to a commission from Iva Dee Hiatt who at the time was conductor of the All Smith Choir and Amherst College Choir, Northampton, Massachusetts. It premiered on December 12th 1952 at at the college’s Christmas Vespers Service. It’s an entirely musical exercise that was never conceived of for liturgical use which is why there’s no concluding Gloria and no companion setting of the Nunc Dimittis. Notwithstanding these lacks it’s well worth listening to. Its opening theme expresses musically The Virgin’s feelings of exaltation and of her exultation in being the Chosen of God. This theme can be heard repeatedly throughout the work. There are so many musical highlights that it’s a bit difficult to single out just one that being said the way in which Finzi extends his melodic lines at "for he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden" is very special. Enjoy :-).
Gerald Finzi (1901-1956): Magnificat Op 36
My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my saviour.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden:
for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm:
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things:
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel.
As he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.
- Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, conducted by Christopher Robinson.