Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/317

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CANTATA.
305
CANTICLE.

recited narrative; thus producing a primitive kind of rondo.

The cantata in this style was brought to great perfection by the Italians of the 17th century. The composer who produced the most perfect examples was Carissimi; apparently they are all for a single voice, or at most for two, with accompaniment of a single instrument lute, cello, clavecin, etc. Shortly after his time the accompaniment took a much more elaborate form, and the violoncello parts to some of Alessandro Scarlatti's cantatas were so difficult that it was considered the mark of a very distinguished artist to be able to play them. Carissimi was the first to adopt this form of composition for church purposes. His cantatas, like those of his contemporaries, are only known by the first few words, so that it would answer no purpose to quote their names. One only is mentioned as having been written on a special occasion the death of Mary Queen of Scots. Among his contemporaries the most famous cantata composers were Lotti, Astorga, Rossi, Marcello, Gasparini, and Alessandro Scarlatti, whose cantatas were extraordinarily numerous. One by Cesti, 'O cara liberta,' is said to have been especially famous. Specimens by most of these composers are quoted in Burney's History, and a collection of twenty-six by Carissimi was published in London at the end of the 18th century, apparently after Burney had finished his work. Twenty-six by Marcello for different voices with accompaniment of different instruments have also been published, and a great number for soprano and contralto with clavecin accompaniment.

At the beginning of the 18th century cantatas of more extended form and various movements were written by Domenico Scarlatti and by Pergolesi. The most famous was the 'Orfeo ed Euridice,' which the latter composed in his last illness. Handel also wrote cantatas after the same fashion, for single voices, both with accompaniments of strings and oboes, and with thorough bass for clavier, and many of these have been published. But they are not well known; and since his time this form of cantata has quite fallen into disuse, and has gradually changed into the concert-aria, of which Mozart has left many fine examples, and of which Beethoven's 'Ah, perfido!' and Mendelssohn's 'Infelice,' are well-known instances. The name Cantata is given to a composition by Mozart for three solo voices, chorus and orchestra in three movements, composed in or about 1783 (Köchel, No. 429).

The Church-Cantata is a much more extended kind of composition, and of these Handel also wrote some, mostly in his younger days, and at present little known (see Chrysander s Händel, i). The greatest and most valuable examples are the Kirchen-cantaten of Sebastian Bach. The number which he wrote is quite astonishing—a hundred have been published by the Bach-Gesellschaft alone, up to 1876, and more than as many more remain in MS [App. p.577 "The number of cantatas published by the Bach-Gesellschaft up to the present year (1888) is 170. See Bach-Gesellschaft and Kirchencantaten in Appendix."]. A list of the whole—232 in all—will be found in Miss Kay-Shuttleworth's sketch of his life. They are for four voices and full orchestra, and consist of from 4 to 7 movements—usually an opening chorus founded on a chorale-melody, recitatives, airs, and duets, and winding up with a chorale, often the same which is employed in the opening, in plain four-part harmony. Many of these, such as 'Christ lag in Todesbanden,' or 'Ein' feste Burg,' are marvels of contrapuntal skill, and others, such as 'Ich hatte viel Bekümmerniss,' are of great beauty and dignity. The supposition is that they were intended for use as anthems in the Sunday and Feast-day services. Mendelssohn adopted the same form in more than one of his early works, as in Op. 23, No. 1, and Op. 39, No. 3, which are written on chorales, and correspond closely with Bach's cantatas, though not so entitled.

In modern times the word Cantata is used to supply an obvious want. The idea as well as the use of 'Cantate di Camera' having quite gone out of fashion, the term is applied to choral works of some dimensions—either sacred and in the manner of an oratorio, but too short to be dignified with that title; or secular, as a lyric drama or story adapted to music, but not intended to be acted. Specimens of the former kind are very numerous. Of the latter we may mention Bennett's 'May Queen' and Brahms's Rinaldo.'

CANTATE DOMINO is the name by which the 98th Psalm is known in its place as an alternative to the Magnificat in the evening service of the Anglican church. The title is formed of the first words of the Vulgate version, according to the practice of the Anglican Psalter. The 17th canon of the council of Laodicea appointed lessons and psalms to be read alternately; and on this principle the 'Cantate' is to be considered as a 'responsory psalm' coming between the lessons. It has no history attached to it in the position it now occupies, as it was not used specially in the ancient church. It was not in the Prayer-Book of Craniner, which was published in 1549, and consequently does not appear in Marbeck's 'Book of Common Praier Noted,' published in 1550. But it was introduced in the revision of 1552, probably to obviate the recurrence of the Magnificat when that canticle happened to be in the second lesson of the day.

It appears not to have been a favourite with musicians. Indeed the Magnificat is in every way preferable, as regards both the service and the opportunities the words seem to offer to the composer. 'Cantate Services' are therefore rare, and in the most famous collections of our church music there are very few of them. In Barnard there is not one; in Boyce only three, viz. two by Blow and one by Purcell; and in Arnold one by Aldrich and one by King.

CANTICLE is the name now generally given to certain hymns taken from the Bible, and sung in the services of the different churches of Christendom: such as the Benedictus, the Benedicite, the Magnificat, and the Nunc Dimittis. In the