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Cantata (It.; Fr. cantate; Ger. Kantate)locked

  • Colin Timms,
  • Nigel Fortune,
  • Malcolm Boyd,
  • Friedhelm Krummacher,
  • David Tunley,
  • James R. Goodall
  •  and Juan José Carreras


A work for one or more voices with instrumental accompaniment. The cantata was the most important form of vocal music of the Baroque period outside opera and oratorio, and by far the most ubiquitous. At first, from the 1620s in Italy, it was a modest form, but at its most typical it consists (notably in Italy in the later 17th century) of a succession of contrasting sections which by the early 18th century became independent movements, normally two arias, each preceded by a recitative. Most Italian cantatas of this period are for a solo voice, but some were written for two or more voices. Up to the late 17th century the cantata was predominantly a secular form, but the church cantata, which included choral movements ranging from simple chorale harmonizations to complex, extended structures, was a major feature of Lutheran music in early 18th-century Germany. The standard form of accompaniment gradually expanded from continuo alone in the mid-17th century to an orchestra, including obbligato instruments, in the 18th. Cantatas, mainly secular, were also fairly widely cultivated elsewhere, especially in France and Spain and to a lesser extent in England. Both the secular and the sacred cantata sharply declined in importance after the middle of the 18th century. In contrast to the previous 100 years and more, the cantata has enjoyed no consistent independent existence since then, and the term has been applied, somewhat haphazardly, to a wide variety of works which generally have in common only that they are for chorus and orchestra....

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