Pachelbel Magnificat Octo Toni
  • J. Pachelbel's wonderful "94 Fugues on the Magnificat" are divided into 8 sections, each one titled "Magnificat primi toni," "Magnificat secondi toni," etc, all the way to "Magnificat octavi toni."

    For years I have tried to figure out what these titles mean. They don't seem to be scale degrees in stepwise motion since the first set of fugues begin on "d", the next 2 sets on "g", then on "f" and so on. The first notes don't seem to be spelling out the melody of a chant either.

    I am thoroughly confused. Can anyone explain this?

  • The 'toni' designations refer to the modes of the Gregorian psalm tones. Primi toni (Mode I) is re-re, re final, aka Dorian mode (Authentic); Secondi toni is also re-re, but with re in the middle of the range (Dorian mode, plagal). See this webpage for a very plain explanation:

    and here for scans of the pages in the Liber Usualis that show the tones written out:

    So the fugues are in the correct mode, no matter upon which tonic they are written.

    I hope that helps!