A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Cavatina

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CAVATINA originally signified a short song, but has been frequently applied to a smooth melodious air, forming part of a grand scena or movement. Thus Mozart's noble scena 'Andromeda' commences with a recitative 'Ah, lo previdi!' followed by an Aria, Allegro, then more recitatives in several tempi, and lastly a Cavatina, Andantino:—

{ \time 3/4 \key bes \major << \relative f'' { f2 \grace f16 e8 d16 e | d2 e4 | f4 ~ f8. d16 g8. e16 | d2( c4) } \\ \relative b { bes8*2/3 d f d f bes f a c | bes, d f d bes f c' f a | d, f bes bes, f' bes ees, g c | \repeat percent 2 { f,8*2/3 bes d } f,4 } >> }
Several examples of cavatine may be found in Bellini's 'Sonnambula,' Meyerbeer's 'Ugonotti,' and other well-known operas. The word is sometimes used for a complete air or song, as in Gounod's 'Romeo'—'L'amour! oui son ardeur a troublé'; and in 'Faust'—'Salve dimora.' In the full score of Mendelssohn's 'St. Paul' 'Be thou faithful unto death' is called a cavatina, but in the vocal scores it is described as an aria. Beethoven has given this title to the second slow movement, Adagio molto espressivo, in his great Quartet in B♭ (op. 130), one of the most touching and individual pieces to be found in all his works. It consists of a song in two strains in E fiat and A flat, an episode in E flat minor (expressive of the deepest distress, and marked in the autograph Beklemmt—choked with grief), and a return to the original strain. [App. p.593 adds that "the derivation of the word is not clear. Cavata is defined as the act of producing tone from a musical instrument. The strict definition of Cavatina will be found under Opera, ii. 511 a."

[ W. H. C. ]