Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth at a time that both are pregnant, Mary with Jesus and Elizabeth with John the Baptist. Mary wants to bring divine grace to Elizabeth and her unborn child, for the first time exercising her function as "mediator" between God and man. During the meeting Mary also proclaims the Magnificat ("My soul doth magnify the Lord"), and therefore this canticle has traditionally been reserved for this feast day.
This feast is of medieval origin (middle of the 13th c.). It was kept by the Franciscan Order which spread it to many churches. In 1389 Pope Urban VI inserted it in the Roman Calendar, for celebration on 2 July.
Isaiah 11:1–5, Prophecy of the Messiah, "A rod shall come out of Jesse"
Luke 1:39–56, Visitation and Magnificat
BCW, BDE, CN, LSG, JN, LVH, WP, Text
- Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147, 2 July 1723 (adapted from BWV 147a for Advent IV)
Chorus: Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben
Rezitativ T: Gebenedeiter Mund!
Aria A: Schäme dich, o Seele nicht
Rezitativ B: Verstockung kann Gewaltige veblenden
Aria S: Bereite dir, Jesu, noch heute die Bahn
Chorale: Wohl mir, dass ich Jesum habe
Aria T: Hilf, Jesu, hilf, dass ich auch dich bekenne
Rezitativ A: Der höchsten Allmacht Wunderhand
Aria B: Ich will von Jesu Wundern singen
Chorale: Jesu bleibet meine Freude
("Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life") Needless to say, this cantata is famous because of the melody "Jesu bleibet meine Freude" at the end of both parts. But it is also overall a very strong piece of music. There is a fine opening with a high-pitched chorus with brilliant trumpet, oboe and strings, followed by a choral fugue. The tenor recitative features a lush string accompaniment. The melancholy alto aria concentrates on illustrating the word “shame.” In the soprano aria we find one of Bach's well-known "walking music," a walking bass with above it a high, silvery soprano asking Jesus "to prepare the path." There is also an interesting violin part. Both halves of the cantata end with the familiar "Jesu bleibet meine Freude" chorale setting, added by Bach for the Leipzig performance. The chorale melody is doubled on the trumpet. The heartfelt tenor aria that opens the second part of the cantata is based on a three-note motto “Hilf, Jesu, hilf.” The lengthy alto recitative is accompanied by two English horns. The energetic bass aria brings not only the trumpet but also the full orchestra back, after which "Jesu bleibet meine Freude" concludes this beautiful cantata. (****)
- Meine Seel erhebt den Herren, BWV 10, 2 July 1724
Coro: Meine Seel erhebt den Herren
Aria (soprano): Herr, der du stark und mächtig bist
Recitativo (tenor): Des Höchsten Güt und Treu
Aria (bass): Gewaltige stößt Gott vom Stuhl
Duetto (alto, tenor) e chorale: Er denket der Barmherzigkeit
Recitativo (tenor): Was Gott den Vätern alter Zeiten
Chorale: Lob und Preis sei Gott dem Vater
("My Soul Magnifies the Lord") Setting of a German translation made by Luther of the Magnificat. The original plainsong psalm tune (the Tonus Peregrinus) plays a large part in this cantata, starting with the introductory ritornello of the choral first movement. This chorus has a great intensity, perhaps symbolizing the joyous anticipation felt by Mary. The bravura soprano aria has a tune that is easy to whistle along with. It is followed by a secco recitative for the tenor. In contrast, the bass aria - only accompanied by the continuo - has a strong dramatic quality. It is even humorous in its depiction of the downfall of the high and mighty with deep descending scales. The haunting duet for alto and tenor is also known as one of the "Schubler Chorales" for organ (BWV 648). The trumpet plays again the Tonus Peregrinus. In the following recitative there is some nice tone painting when at the words "His seed would multiply, like the sand on the sea-shore," as the strings produce the effect of waves striking the shore. The sturdy Gregorian Tonus Peregrinus returns to end the cantata. (***)