A conductor's guide to the e-flat "Magnificat" of Johann Sebastian Bach

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)


Music Conducting

First Committee Member

Donald Oglesby - Committee Chair


Johann Sebastian Bach's original setting of the canticle known as the Magnificat is an example of a composition written for a specific time and place, the Christmas Vespers services for the principal churches in the city of Leipzig in 1723. This document will trace the history of the biblical text and of the practice of basing musical compositions on this text. It will examine the background and local customs with which Bach found himself in 1723 and will show that these local practices greatly influenced his compositional process for this work. Also examined are Bach's other works based on or inspired by this text and a brief survey of performances and scholarship following Bach's death. An in-depth analysis covering overall form and each of the 16 movements is a major portion of this document. Finally, Bach's relationship to the work of Martin Luther will be explored in order to show that Luther's writings on the text of the Magnificat and his theological concepts influenced Bach as he composed. Practical assistance for choral conductors including instrumental and vocal requirements and placement suggestions, pronunciation guides to the Latin and German texts and a new, edited score are a part of this document.



Link to Full Text


Link to Full Text