(Italian: story set to music)

Musical term originally used for a vocal composition in the 17th century when instrumental music was coming into use. At first it connoted an arrangement for one or two voices, later a group of arias joined by recitative. It is now applied almost exclusively to choral music in general. The church music of Giacomo Carissimi (1604-1674) is an excellent example of the earlier type of cantata.

New Catholic Dictionary

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