Sonata vs. Cantata

Difference Between Sonata And Cantata


“Sonata,” one of the most elastic terms in music, has been used over the past 400 years to denote many different musical forms, from a short piece for a single instrument to complex works in many sections, or movements, for a large ensemble. Since the middle of the 18th century, however, the sonata for one or two keyboard instruments, or for another instrument accompanied by keyboard, has been cultivated as an instrumental genre comparable in sophistication to the symphony, concerto, and string quartet. All these genres have in common a flexible multi movement design that music analysts call the sonata cycle. The term sonata form describes a typical sequence of themes and keys most commonly found in the first movement of a sonata cycle.


Cantata, a musical composition for soloists and choir with instrumental accompaniment, written in the form of a short oratorio. The term at first denoted a work for one voice accompanied by one instrument. This form of the cantata originated in Italy shortly after 1600 as a monodic adaptation of the polyphonic madrigal: in the cantata one part of the madrigal was sung and the other parts were played on the lute. The earliest cantatas usually varied the melody from verse to verse while repeating the “strophic bass” accompaniment.

As the cantata developed, its texts became standardized as secular narratives, usually pastoral or dramatic; but cantatas were always performed without costumes, scenery, or action. During the 17th century they gradually incorporated recitatives, ariosos, arias, duets, choruses, and instrumental sinfonie and ritornelli. The first important cantata composers were Claudio Monteverdi, Luigi Rossi, and Giacomo Carissimi. Carissimi (1605–1674) introduced more elaborate accompaniments, added choral sections, and adapted the cantata to the church. Alessandro Scarlatti (1660–1725) standardized the form to two contrasting arias.



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