Jan R. Luth Did Buxtehude’s Magnificat primi toni have a liturgical function?
het ORGEL 95 (1999), nr. 6, 15-19 [summary]

Did Buxtehude’s Magnificat primi toni have a liturgical function or was it used as a solo piece? Josef Hedar remarks in his edition of Buxtehude’s organ works that the key often changes, which makes it difficult for a chorus to enter at the proper pitch. Matthias Schneider and Kerala Snyder also think that the Magnificat was played solo. Schneider says that there might be a connection between the form (two parts, divided by a Lento) and liturgical traditions: but otherwise than in the rest of Germany, the chorus did not alternate with the organ in Hamburg, where the melody of Buxtehude’s Magnificat originated. Snyder writes that an alternatim performance of the Magnificat would have been unusual in Lübeck and that the Magnificat was played in concerts on holidays at the end of the 17th century. Church ordinances do not provide sufficient information to answer our question. The ordinance of Bugenhagen (1529), on which that of Hamburg was based, states simply that the organist should play ‘den hymnum magnificat’ in the evening. Other ordinances, from the 17th century, show that the organist played the Magnificat in afternoon service as well. The expression used is ‘dazwischenschlagend’, and seems to point at an alternatim performance, but can also mean that the organist improvised at the appropriate moments. Like Hedar, another fact argues for using Buxtehude’s Magnificat as a solo piece: the two parts do not correspond with the complete lines of the Magnificat, but concentrate on motives of these lines. Conclusion: Buxtehude’s Magnificat is written as a solo piece that might be played in connection with a vocal performance of the Magnificat or instead of it.