What is cantata?

Oksana Vasilyeva
Oksana Vasilyeva
February 19, 2015
What is cantata?

The word "cantata", like many other musical terms, has an Italian origin. The Italian “cantata” is derived from the Latin “santa”, which literally means “to sing.”

What is cantata in music? What is the meaning of this term? Let's see.

Meaning and origin of the word

Cantata originally emerged as a vocal-instrumental genre in Italy of the 17th century, which at first did not have a clear form. This word is called any major musical work intended for vocal performance. Later this term was assigned to the vocal-instrumental composition written for the soloists of the choir. And in Russian music, the first cantatas appeared only in the 18th century.

The main difference between cantata and opera (a similar musical work) is that there is no dramatic action in cantatas. And in the development of this genre, special attention was paid to the melody. At first, cantatas were written for one voice (soloist) and consisted of several arias, between which a recitative was inserted.

Cantatas can be both secular and spiritual.In Italy, secular cantatas were more popular, and spiritual cantatas were developed in religious Germany. The most famous author of spiritual cantatas is Johann Sebastian Bach. The cantatas in Russian music were mostly heroic. In his work, P. I. Tchaikovsky, S. S. Prokofiev, N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov addressed this genre.

So, a cantata is a musical work written for the choir, performed by its soloists in instrumental and choral accompaniment.

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