Composers Datebook®

C.P.E. Bach's 'Magnificat'

Composers Datebook - April 9, 2024


We’re cranking up the Datebook time machine today to take you back to a charity concert that took place in Hamburg on today’s date in 1786. The concert was organized and conducted by 72-year-old composer Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, who had been producing new sacred music in Hamburg for many years.

But instead of new works, for the charity concert C.P.E. Bach programmed some music that in 1786 was almost 40 years old: he opened with the Credo from his father J.S. Bach’s Mass in B minor, followed by two excerpts from Handel's Messiah, namely the Hallelujah Chorus and I Know that My Redeemer Liveth, both sung in German, and then his own setting of the Latin Magnificat, a work he had composed back in 1749 when his father was still alive.

C.P.E. Bach’s Magnificat is not heard as often as J.S. Bach’s more famous setting, which is a shame, since, like his father’s Magnificat, C.P.E.’s is a festive, exciting piece of sacred music with trumpets and drums and tuneful vocal solos, along with great choral writing — and we suspect papa J.S. Bach would have nodded with approval that his son’s version concluded with a well-constructed choral fugue.

Music Played in Today's Program

C.P.E. Bach (1714-1788): Sicut Erat In Principio, from Magnificat; RIAS Kammerchor & Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Hans-Christoph Rademann; Harmonia Mundi 902167

On This Day


  • 1717 - Austrian composer Georg Matthias Monn, in Vienna

  • 1846 - Italian-born British composer and vocal teacher Sir Francesco Paolo Tosti, in Ortona

  • 1887 - American composer Florence Price, in Little Rock, Ark.

  • 1906 - Hungarian-born American composer and conductor Antal Dorati, in Budapest

  • 1935 - Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen, in Salmi


  • 1933 - German composer and organist Sigfrid Karg-Elert, 55, in Leipzig

  • 1960 - Australian composer and pianist Arthur Benjamin, 66, in London


  • 1903 - Frederick S. Converse: Endymion's Narrative for orchestra, by the Boston Symphony, Wilhelm Gericke conducting

  • 1916 - de Falla: Nights in the Gardens of Spain for piano and orchestra, in Madrid

  • 1920 - Stenhammar: incidental music for Shakespeare's As You Like It, at the Lorensberg Theater in Gothenburg, Sweden

  • 1926 - Varèse: Amériques, by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting

  • 1942 - Stravinsky: Circus Polka at Madison Square Gardens in New York, by the Barnum & Bailey Circus, with M. Evans conducting

  • 1948 - Barber: song-cycle Knoxville: Summer of 1915 for voice and orchestra, by the Boston Symphony with Serge Koussevitzky conducting and soprano Eleanor Steber the soloist

  • 1959 - Benjamin Lees: Prologue, Capriccio and Epilogue for orchestra, in Portland, Oregon

  • 1967 - Ned Rorem: Water Music for clarinet, violin and orchestra, by the Youth Chamber Orchestra of Oakland, with Robert Hughes conducting and Larry London (clarinet) and Thomas Halpin (violin) the soloists


  • 1870 - Grieg writes a letter from Rome describing how Liszt performed his Piano Concerto at sight and praised the work highly

  • 1938 - American premiere of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 by the NBC Symphony, Artur Rodzinski conducting

  • 1939 - First lady Eleanor Roosevelt sponsors an Easter Sunday concert by Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial to protest racial discrimination after the singer is denied use of Washington's Constitution Hall (owned and administered by the Daughters of the American Revolution). 75,000 people attend this open-air event.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®