Meine Seele Erhebet Den Herrn, from Telemann’s Magnificat (Ensemble Planeta)

I was going to do something light and funny for Friday, but it’s been a very long week and I’m tired and headachey and in the mood for something soothing.

Hence, we have this rather unusual interpretation by the Ensemble Planeta of an aria from Telemann’s German Magnificat.  They’ve slowed it right down, given the tenor solo to a soprano, and transformed the bouncy string accompaniment into a trippy, drifting vocal one – it’s the Magnificat, Telemann, but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it…  And just to make it more gorgeous, someone has added a collection of medieval illuminations to the music.  It’s possibly the prettiest thing you will see on YouTube this year.

Honestly, I think it speaks for itself.  Except for the part where I haven’t the faintest idea what words they are singing (they are not German, nor are they the Latin Magnificat that I know of.  They sound as though they might be Italian, however I don’t understand Italian well enough to be sure.  For once, I don’t care about the words that much – this performance is, I think, one that harks back to the sort of polyphonic, Latin music popular in the 17th century, composed with the purpose of enhancing contemplation and prayer, rather than provoking an intellectual or emotional response to the words.

It’s surprisingly tricky to find just this aria on YouTube, but I did eventually happen upon a recording of the entire Magnificat here (the part quoted by the Ensemble Planeta starts at 10:04, if you want to make a direct comparison).  It’s astonishing how different it sounds with the original instrumentation and voicing.  As a baroque girl myself, I’d be inclined on most days to prefer it, but the combination of Ensemble Planeta’s angelic voices with those beautiful illuminated manucripts from les très riches heures du Duc de Berry is just irresistible to me.

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