Magnificat for Choir and Orchestra

Commissioned by a consortium of 8 choirs for simultaneous nationwide premieres during the 2019-2020 season, Michael John Trotta’s Magnificat is a 40-minute work for choir, soprano and bass soli, and orchestra. This seven-movement work delivers a tapestry of melodic richness that powerfully portrays the anticipation of the wonder and mystery of the birth of a savior.

The text of the work is part of the Luke infancy narrative taken from the Visitation. It has a long musical and liturgical history with notable settings by Vivaldi, Bach, and more recently by John Rutter. Additional texts were selected from the medieval period and Mary’s response at the Annunciation. Despite its history of bring on of the oldest Christian hymns the text is still part of daily devotional use around the world today.

Key Features:

  • Language: Latin or English (at the choice of the conductor)
  • Forces: SATB and choice of orchestration
  • Choice of performing forces:
    • Keyboard Only (organ or piano)
    • Chamber Ensemble: Fl, Ob, Cl., Hrn, Harp, Timp, 1 Perc, Org., 8 players (opt. Strings and Harp replace organ, 14 players )
    • Full Orchestra: (2.2.2.2) (4.3.3.1) +str+harp+timp+2 perc
  • Length: Approx.40 Minutes
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Magnificat for Choir and Orchestra

  • Commissioning Ensembles:
    • St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Choir – Seattle, WA Michael Monnikendam, Director of Music Ministries
    • Sanctuary Choir of First Baptist Church – San Antonio, TX Dr. Aaron C. Hufty, Associate Pastor of Worship and Music
    • University of Alabama at Birmingham – Birmingham, AL Dr. Brian Kittredge, Director of Choral Activities
    • Wellington High School Choirs – Palm Beach, FL Bradford Chase, Director
    • Memorial Presbyterian Church – St, Augustine, FL Ray McDonald – Director of Music and Organist
    • Athens First United Methodist Church – Athens, GA Stephen Mitchell, Director of Music
    • Centenary UMC Chancel Choir – McComb, MS Christopher Hart, Director of Music and Arts

Magnificat anima mea Dominum;
Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo,
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae; ecce enim ex hoc
beatam me dicent omnes generationes.

Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen ejus,
Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.

Ave rosa sine spinis, stella maris,
Tu illustrates u nato illustraris
Luce clara deitatis, praefulges cunctis datis.
Vas divinae bonitatis
Et totius pietatis.
Verbo in te carne facto, o dulce vas amoris.

Fecit potentiam in brachio suo;
Dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.

Ecce ancilla Domini,
fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Esurientes implevit bonis,
et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israel, puerum suum,
recordatus misericordiae suae,

Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros,
Abraham et semini ejus in saecula.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,:
sicut erat in principio,et nunc, et semper:
et in Saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Magnificat (My soul rejoices in the Lord)
My spirit exults in God my savior.
He has regarded me as his servant in His grace and mercy;
From now on they shall all call me blessed.

He has done great things for me, he is mighty, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them in all generations.  Holy is his name and mighty is his mercy.

Rose without thorns, without blemish, star of the ocean.
Brightly you shine forth clear and radiant, divine essence,
Shining on all things.
Vessel of divine grace, goodness and mercy,
And all compassion and all kindness.
Vessel of the sweetest love, the word made flesh within you.

He has shown strength in his arm and scattered the wicked.
He has shown strength in his arm and scattered the arrogant of heart.
He has deposed the mighty and wicked from their seats:
And he shall lift up the meek and the humble.

Behold, I am the servant of the Lord,
May it be done to me, according to your word.

The hungry have been filled with all good things
and the rich have been dismissed empty.
He has helped his Israel, his faithful servant
in remembrance of his great mercy and kindness.

As was said to our fathers:
Abraham and all generations forevermore.
Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now,
and ever shall be: forevermore. Amen

Explore other major works by Trotta

Magnificat by Michael John Trotta

Notes by Vaughn Roste

Introduction

A Magnificat is a setting of the Song of Mary as found in the Gospel of Luke (1:46-55) – what the King James Version in 1611 translated as “My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord” (the New International Version updates “magnifies” to “glorifies” if that helps clarify). As a Biblical passage these words have been set by perhaps thousands of times by composers over the centuries; anonymous settings date all the way back to the fifteenth century, and many composers have set them more than once. Part of its appeal might stem from its daily use: Roman Catholics would use this prayer each evening as part of their Vespers services, and the Anglican service of Evensong continues that tradition. Settings by Bach, Vivaldi, and more recently by John Rutter are perhaps the most famous, although Monteverdi and Mozart wrote Vespers that are very well known as well. Trotta’s seven-movement concertized version is an uplifting, 40-minute work for soprano and baritone soloists, choir and orchestra.

I. Magnificat Anima Mea Dominum (Choir and Orchestra)

The exuberant opening movement is a stately march in ABA form, with a short introduction on the title word – remember this music, because you will hear it again later, and not just as the coda to this movement. With its ever-present rhythmic drive, you might find the first movement of Trotta’s Magnificat to be reminiscent of the 7th movement of Vivaldi’s Gloria, “Domine Fili Unigenite” in its strong triple meter – except here Trotta is in a strong Duple. The French horn first introduces the opening theme, a majestic ascending fourth on a dotted rhythm, and the choir soon joins in octaves: “Magnificat!”. The second, contrasting theme – lyrical instead of angular – is an ascending scale of alternating half and quarter notes, introduced by the orchestra, returning again with the choir on the words “et exultavit.” These are in fact the two main themes, not just of this movement, but of the entire work. Notice too, the reverence with which the composer sets the word “Dominum” (Lord), sung by the choir accompanied only by woodwinds, as if there were a halo around this word; this is evocative of how Bach used the strings in his St. Matthew Passion. The relentless forward motion of this movement is infectious, the music happily expressing the joy of the text: our spirits rejoice!

II. Quia Fecit Mihi Soprano Soloist and Orchestra

After the lively first movement, we settle into a slower, more calm setting. The oboe introduces the lyrical scalar theme from the first movement over a rolling harp accompaniment and shimmering strings (with overtones!), and the soloist sings the same material. Also in ABA form, as the opening lyrics return at the end, this short movement is sweet and full of reverence.

III. Ave Rosa Sine Spina Unaccompanied Choir

The “Ave Rose Sine Spina” text is not part of the Magnificat itself, but a six-verse Latin poem based on the Ave Maria (each of its verses start with a word from that salutary prayer). Trotta does not set every word, but instead selects phrases from the first four verses for inclusion here. You might expect this piece to roll out in regular four-bar phrases, but in fact they are six bar groupings. Generally neumatic, (meaning syllables happen every second beat), forward motion is always provided with quarter note movement in one voice or another, with many suspensions providing harmonic interest. This short movement is also in ABA form, with a shortened opening line repeated at the end as a coda. The B section recalls the theme from the first and second movements, before transforming into new material which will return later in movment six.

IV. Fecit Potentiam Soprano Soloist, Choir, and Orchestra

In contrast to Vivaldi’s Magnificat where this is the shortest movement (requiring a scant 30 seconds to perform), Trotta’s 10-min Fecit Potentiam is the longest movement of this work. We hear again the lyrical scalar theme from the first two movements, this time spiced up with a fiery ostinato in the strings. When the choir enters, they sing the descending bass line in octaves, then four parts, followed by the ascending scalar theme in unison then in parts. In the slower middle section, the second theme from the first movement returns in a lilting 12/8 meter. First introduced by the cello, the theme is soon picked up by the viola, the violins, the oboe, and the flute in turn, the latter two concluding with a brief duet. A slower, more contrapuntal section leads us to re-introduce the choir, who sing “Et Exsaltavit” in the same slow tempo, soon joined by a soaring soprano descant. But the choral part does not last long – another orchestral interlude transitions us back to the original key of a minor, where the trumpet and the horn are added to the galloping strings in a recapitulation of the opening material and a surprising pianissimo ending.

V. Ecce Ancilla Soprano Soloist and Choir, Unaccompanied

Trotta’s second textual insertion into the Magnificat is taken from Luke 1:38, which is Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. (The Magnificat itself begins nine verses later). After a three-bar preface that ends in minor (connecting with the previous movement) and foretells the conclusion, listeners will recognize a theme that was first presented to them as “Et exsultavit” in the middle of the previous movement (with the same soprano descant). This short 48-bar movement, also in ABA form, is a somber a cappella respite between extended orchestral movements, completely tonal, with many suspensions and tasteful dissonances. This movement illustrates Trotta at his most emotional and effective writing; he excels at works for a cappella SATB choir (four-parts, with occasional divisi) and a soprano soloist (or descant above): several of his octavos are similarly scored, such as “Where Peace Has Always Been,” “I Shall See,” “O Gracious Light,” “Irish Blessing,” and “Ubi Caritas.”

VI. Esurientes Baritone soloist and orchestra

It is not until the sixth movement that the baritone soloist appears, and has this movement entirely to himself, accompanied by the orchestra. The soloist is interrupted by two orchestral interludes: the first is the lyrical theme from th