A cantata (literally "sung", derived from the Italian word "cantare") is a vocal composition (solo or chorale) with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements.
The Cantata originated from the single-voice madrigals of the 17th century, and gradually evolved into the mini-oratorio of the 19th century. Most cantatas of the 18th and 19th centuries were religious in nature, with a few being secular in nature.
The Lutheran Church was one of the greatest consumers of cantatas, necessitating the composition of large numbers of them for each church service of the year (Bach wrote most of his cantatas for such church services). The nobility and other people of great power also commissioned cantatas to be composed for special events, most frequently birthdays.
Cantatas can be found today, either modernized or conforming to Classical Music standards, still referencing religion or secular, in original soundtracks. Or provide inspiration for modern musicians.
Compare with the Oratorio, a string of cantatas that usually present an identifiable plot and characters. Classical cantatas are not known for this feature, though more modern renditions might include such elements.
Contrast with A Cappella, sung but no instrumental accompaniment.
See also Opera, much lengthier than both the Oratorio and the Cantata and meant to be performed on stage, with costumes and all; One-Woman Wail; and Ominous Latin Chanting. For that matter, ballads are vocal compositions in verse and were originally written to accompany dances.
The term cantata can be found in the names of fictional works and characters, so make sure not to confuse them with the actual musical pieces.
Anime & Manga
- Aria the Scarlet Ammo: Played for Laughs in episode 6, when after Kinji opens a drawer full of women's underwear, Carl Orff Carmina Burana plays in all of its glory. Made even more hilarious by Kinji's Deadpan Snarker response.
- "Cantata Orbis", the closing soundtrack of Space Runaway Ideon. Its lyrics are extremely ironic, talking about the glorification of life and God, all the while, in the end, the characters are dead.
Films — Live-Action
- Alexander Nevsky features an eponymous cantata as part of its soundtrack; it was composed by Sergei Prokofiev. Its seventh movement is the subject of both a Triumphant Reprise and a Reprise Medley.
- Amadeus: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his rival Antonio Salieri collaborate to compose a four-minute cantata in 1785.
- The Man Who Knew Too Much: "Storm Clouds Cantata" plays, In-Universe, during the climax of the movie. It echoes the happenings of the plot and is used as a Musical Trigger. Many fans thought it was a pre-existent Classical Music piece; in reality, it's an original soundtrack composed by Arthur Benjamin.
- Phantom of the Paradise: Aspiring singer and songwriter Winslow composes and performs In-Universe "Faust", a rock cantata inspired by the eponymous myth. Without his permission, Winslow's producers decide to revamp it into Surf Rock, and thus, "Upholstery" is born.
- Ivanhoe is adapted into an eponymous, dramatic cantata by Victor Sieg. It earned him a Prix de Rome.
- The Pentagon War: While waiting in line for the Sirius/Human-Centauri hyper hole, James Carter plays the second movement of Bach's "Jesu der du meine seele" (BWV 78) Translation cantata, to pass the time.
- Anna Russell's "Wir gehen in den Automaten". It's about ordering bacon at the Automat. A hilarious yet Affectionate Parody.
- "Helgoland" (WAB 71) is a secular, patriotic cantata for male choir and orchestra, composed by Anton Bruckner.
- Benjamin Britten:
- Carl Orff's Carmina Burana cantata is very liberally based on a collection of eponymous Medieval poems. Its opening and closing cantus "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi has become a Standard Snippet for Epic Movies, particularly, the "O Fortuna" movement. Translations
- Deep Purple includes Johann Sebastian Bach's "Heart and mouth and deed and life" cantata as part of the intro of "You Fool No One/The Mule", an elaborate organ solo that quickly deranges into a musical mess.
- Donald Mc Cullough's ominous, heavy "Holocaust Cantata" is based on original music sung by incarcerated inmates in Holocaust concentration camps.
- In one of the movements, "The Train," the male soloist sings a last farewell to his love as she is being taken to a concentration camp.
- Felix Mendelssohn's "Festgesang" cantata. It's also called the Gutenberg cantata because it celebrates Gutenberg's genius at inventing printing with movable type. He thought it'd never catch on, but it did (become a respected classic music piece). It even gets used in religious carols for Christmas!
- Superstitious Gustav Mahler's symphonic cantata "Das Lied von der Erde" Translation , which he tried to number as his ninth symphony so as to not die leaving nine symphonic compositions but ten. A symphonic cantata is accompanied by a greater range of instruments; normal cantatas are classified as chamber music (only a few instruments).
- Some cantatas are Hymns to Music, particularly if they are about St. Cecilia, patron saint of music.
- Giacomo Carissimi's "Lamento della Regina Maria Stuarda" Translation is inspired by Mary of Scotland's life. He depicts her as a tragic martyr.
- Sir Arthur Sullivan, of the Gilbert and Sullivan duo, created "The Golden Legend" cantata, based on a poetic work of the same name by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
- Igor Stravinsky's "A Sermon, a Narrative and a Prayer". Its last movement is dedicated to the memory of Reverend James McLane.
- Johann Sebastian Bach dominates the cantata composition scene with his 200+ religious (anvillicious and making use of Lutheran hymns and Bible versicles) and secular cantatas (often about Classical Mythology). His cantatas are generally recognized as the finest examples of the genre. Though, to be fair, several of his religious cantatas are dolled-up installments of his secular ones. The dude had a bad case of enforced Self-Plagiarism. Also, most of the lyrics of his cantatas were written by other people, he's just the musical composer. Anyway, we are digressing; Bach's cantatas often begin with Opening Choruses or Sinfonias (completely instrumental parts). Examples include:
- "Beloved God, When Will I Die?" (BWV 8). It's about wondering when one will die, so it appropriately features a Tick Tock Tune to depict the passing of time.
- "Christ Lay in the Snares of Death" (BWV 4). Its third stanza features a Stop and Go in the word "nicht" (nothing remains) and eleven, sharp violin chords for a "Psycho" Strings effect.
- His "Come, Sweet Death" (BWV 161) cantata purportedly invokes the trope Obi-Wan Moment.
- The Battle of the Bands-type "The Contest Between Phoebus and Pan" (BWV 201) cantata. During Midas's aria, the violins do donkey imitations, foreshadowing Midas's Karmic Transformation.
- The sixth and tenth movements of the "Heart and mouth and deed and life"(BWV 147)note cantata appear quite a lot in the Small Reference Pools most creators use. In such cases, it's usual for the tempo to be slower, the original German lyrics to never appear, and the melody to be an arrangement of the original.note
- The secular "Hercules at the Crossroads" (BWV 213) cantata features an Answering Echo in one of its arias.
- "I Had Much Grief" (BWV 21), famous for its abundant Song Style Shifts, which render it one of Bach's highest quality pieces.
- In "Lord, do not pass judgment on Your servant" (BWV 105), the strings evoke a heart beating rapidly from anxiety and fear which echo the lyrics. The cantata is about a sinner being tormented by his own conscience.
- "Lord Jesus Christ, O highest good" (BWV 113). Its seventh movement is infamous for its abuse of Melismatic Vocals to the point of being nearly unperformable.
- "Lord Jesus Christ, true Man and God" (BWV 127), famed due to its Subdued Sections. This piece pioners loud-soft intervals by one century.
- "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" (BWV 80) starts right away with the vocals instead of the traditional instrumental beginning.
- "Rejoice, You Hearts", a lyrically disonant celebration of Jesus' resurrection. Its fourth and fifth movements feature a Counterpoint Duet in which each voice sings oxymoronic lyrics in regard to the other. The voices are, after all, Anthropomorphic Personifications of Fear and Hope.
- The opening chorus of the secular cantata "Resound, ye drums! Ring out, ye trumpets!" (BWV 24) begins with an emphatic passage for solo timpani, occasionally punctuated by the basso continuo instruments. It carried over to Bach's "Christmas Oratorio".
- "Wake Up, the Voice Calls to us" (BWV 140). As it was customary for Lutheran liturgical music of the Baroque era, it features Soprano and Gravel dialogues between Jesus (sung by a bass) and the Soul (sung by a soprano) in a Call-and-Response Song act.
- "Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd" (BWV 208) Translation , the Hunting Cantata. If there's a wedding and they aren't playing Lohengrin and Mendelssohn, then it's this cantata the musical accompaniment. Additionally, of all of his cantatas, Bach reused this one the most (in other works of his). Ironically, it was composed for The Grand Hunt exploits of Duke Christian of Saxe-Weissenfels.
- "Weeping, Lamenting, Worrying, Fearing" (BWV 12) boasts a four-bar ostinato bass-line pattern (aka, a Falling Bass).
- Notably averted in his "Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht" cantata, a piece popularly known as the "Coffee Cantata". However, it's not a cantata but a comic operetta — lengthier than a cantata but shorter than an actual opera. Also, it begins with a recitative.
- Kurt Weill's "The Berlin Requiem" is a morbid, secular cantata about faceless war casualties and victims of violent crimes. Appropiate for a piece titled Requiem. The lyrics come from Bertolt Brecht's poems.
- Les Luthiers's piece "Cantata del Adelantado Don Rodrigo Díaz de Carreras, de sus hazañas en tierras de Indias, de los singulares acontecimientos en que se vio envuelto, y de cómo se desenvolvió" Translation . It has a narrator (non-sung) offering Deadpan Snarker commentary.
- Spanish band Mägo de Oz's album "Gaia II: La Voz Dormida" ends with "La Cantata del Diablo — Missit me Dominus". Translations Ironically, the song rants against the Catholic Church.
- Marc Antoine Charpentier's "Epitaphium Carpentarii" Translation cantata is a pretentious, musicalized "The Reason You Suck" Speech in which Charpentier's ghost rises from the grave to berate the fans who only love him now he's dead.
- Michael Daugherty's cantata "Letters from Lincoln" is famous for its movement "Letter to Mrs. Bixby" which tells the story of a woman, Lydia Parker Bixby, who lost five sons to the The American Civil War. The letter used for the lyrics has a consoling yet empathetic message, and so does the cantata.
- Danish composer Niels Gade's "Elverskud" cantata., with special mention to the "Morning Song" movement.
- OverClocked ReMix: The two-part "Cantata for Dancing" (comprised of "Mors ego sum mortis" and "Fuga Kefka") is a remix of "Dancing Mad" from Final Fantasy VI.
- P.D.Q. Bach: Yes, he's related to J. S. Bach and, like him, pursued a career in music. You can call him Parody Bach. Why? Because he loves to use comedic tropes in his musical compositions.
- The "Blaues Gras" Translation cantata sports literally translated American English idioms to German (the language the piece is sung in). Who knew classical singers could pull off Poirot Speak so well?
- His cantata "Iphigenia in Brooklyn" (S. 53162)note has lots of Fun with Homophones and unusual instruments such as wine bottles. Also, the second movement ends with a harpsichord flourish and is a veritable Ending Fatigue. Nothing out of the ordinary with Parody Bach.
- One of his choral works, "Knock, Knock", is essentially made up of knock, knock and lightbulb jokes in the form of cantatas. All in all, a Feghoot.
Ida-ream of Jeannie with the light brown hair
- Sergei Prokofiev's "Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution" celebrates the Red October and, in its sixth movement, displays a plethora of out-of-the-norm instruments such as accordions, large brass bells, a siren, a megaphone, cannons, and a machine gun.
- Within Symphony X's album "V-The New Mythology Suite", there are interspersed excerpts of Bach's cantata "Ich habe meine Zuversicht" (BWV 188). Translation
- Yuki Kajiura created her iconic Kajiurago (an often nonsensical mix of Spanish, Italian, and Latin) with the express purpose of using it in her cantatas. Although, occasionally, she writes her lyrics in actual languages (Japanese and English). In any case, her vocal compositions feature Ominous Latin Chantings and One-Woman Wails. The instrumental accompaniment ranges from classical to modernized (Anison and rock). Examples include:
- "The World" for .hack//SIGN.
- "Mezame" for My-HiME.
- "Canta Per Me" for Noir.
- "Credens Justitiam" for Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
- "She Has to Overcome Her Fear" for Sword Art Online.
- "A Song of Storm and Fire" for Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-.
- "My Long, Forgotten, Cloistered Sleep" for Xenosaga.
- And those she doesn't compose for any fictional work in particular:
- Wendy Carlos's album Switched-On Bach can be described as "Bach meets the synthesizer". It features a pair of Bach's cantatas, namely:
- "Sinfonia to Cantata No. 29".
- "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", from "Cantata No. 147.
- The choral concert redux of the play 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, "A White House Cantata". It's notable due to its purposeful usage of Acting for Two. Unfortunately, it was a flop, so it caused quite the disappointment to its creator, Leonard Bernstein.
- Initially, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was a fifteen-minute-long cantata.
- Bayonetta: "The Greatest Jubilee" cantata is the theme of Jubileus, who is God in female form. It sounds every bit as glorious and euphoric as the situation dictates. It's also of god-like complexity, pun intended.
- Dante's Inferno: "Limo Prisoners" is a cantata with Ominous Latin Chanting accompanied by the twirling sounds of what seems to be a single coin. This tracks when Dante is exploring the interior of Charon's boat.
- Dissidia Final Fantasy: Its prequel, Dissidia Duodecim features the Autobots, Rock Out! "Cantata Mortis" in its soundtrack. It's also an Ominous Latin Chanting.
- DonPachi: A modernized, so to speak, example. "Longhena Cantata" is Colonel Longhener/Longhena's theme, played during the boss battle between him and Golden Disaster. It's also one of the video game's leitmotifs and an One-Woman Wail.
- Fraggle Rock: "Whoopee Cantata", tweaked to include Ska beats. In the show, is used to welcome back Uncle Matt who, hilariously, hates it.
- Sesame Street Songs Home Video: "Old MacDonald Cantata" turns "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" into a makeshift cantata.
Fictional works and characters named after the term Cantata:
- BlazBlue: One of Carl's attacks is Cantata. Fitting, since his attacks are musically-themed.
- Cantata Blast, the leader of the SIRENs, in the fanfic Seven Days in Sunny June.
- Johann Sebastian Bach's "The Coffee Cantata" which, as explained above, is not a cantata but an operetta. It's a story about a daughter trying to convince her father that coffee is good, or at least innocent. It turned Frederick the Great into a huge fan of Bach.
- The "Cantata for Warships in D" installment of Undocumented Features.
- The novel Cantata in Coral and Ivory.
- Cantata Meiko from Brave Frontier.
- Cantata-of-the-depths, the gem god and patron of the Irugu clan, from Exalted.
- The Cantata Pansophical fan group.
- Shopkeeper Carmen Cantata from Thief: Deadly Shadows.
- Kathy Cantata from CSI.
- Laetabilis Cantata from BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger.