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On the great feast days, the Magnificat was given at the evening service in Leipzig, following the sermon. Bach twice set this poem (Luke I, 46-55). One of these compositions, for solo soprano, has been lost. Of the other Magnificat, Bach composed his first version, In E-flat, with four inserted Christmas pieces, prepared for the evening service that holiday, 1723. His revision of 1728-31, In D Major, omitting the Christmas movements, was intended for use on any major feast day.
Bach composed the motets for special occasions, probably for the birthdays, funerals or memorial services of prominent Leipzig citizens.
In this edition, five of the six motets are scored for a cappella chouus: Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5 for double chorus (SATB/SATB), No. 3 for various combinations of three-, four- and five-part voices. Motet 6 is scored for SATB and continuo.