Magnificat II
Op.98 no.1

for SATB soli & choir, organ
8.5 mins.

Commissioned by the choir of Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis and premiered by them under Philip Brunelle , 19 th December 2004. The UK premiere was given in Eton College Chapel by the choir of Clare College , Cambridge , under their conductor Tim Brown, on 26 th February 2005.

Programme notes

Magnificat II (with its companion-piece Nunc dimittis II) was commissioned by Philip Brunelle and Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis. It was written in October 2004, and lasts 8½ minutes. The first performance was given by Philip Brunelle and the choir of Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis, on 19th December 2004. The British premiere was given in Eton College Chapel on 26th February 2005 by the choir of Clare College, Cambridge, under their conductor Tim Brown.

In 2004, twenty-two years having slipped away since the appearance of my Magnificat I, it seemed right to revisit this wonderful ecstatic text (and the valedictory ecstasy of Simeon) in the light of experience. My first setting is widely performed; but it is quite difficult, and there are choirs who do not have the confidence or numbers to tackle its a cappella sixteen-part athletics. This time my intention was to produce a simple setting with organ accompaniment; but the new piece did not turn out quite like that. It is scored for double choir and four solo voices – one of each type, but with an extra spotlight upon the soprano, who represents Mary. The form is a sort of squashed rondo – the refrain being introduced each time by the organ. There is a reference to Magnificat I in the Amen; but it is developed it in a different way. My intention was to create an overall feeling of physical and emotional excitement bordering on ecstasy.

Giles Swayne 2009


. . . the European premiere of Giles Swayne’s  Magnificat II. The composer’s first setting of Mary’s hymn of thanksgiving was groundbreaking in its unfamiliar detached vocal style, to which reference is made in the new piece; but an organ part drives the music onwards and a soprano solo garlands much of the piece. Moods unfold with the text; in particular the violent setting of the words fecit potentiam and the solid hymn-like writing for suscepit Israel. Wit pervades the music: et sanctum nomen eius sees a cunning reference to the manner of Tallis, and the striking glides of the soprano solo seem to depict Mary as quite dramatically ecstatic with joy…

Max Pappenheim –