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The Standard Cantatas Their Stories, Their Music, and Their Composers   By: (1834-1919)

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First Page:


A Handbook



Copyright By A. C. McClurg and Co. A.D. 1887


The "Standard Cantatas" is the third of the series in which the "Standard Operas" and "Standard Oratorios" have been its predecessors. Of necessity, therefore, the same method has been followed in the arrangement and presentation of the author's scheme. As in the works above mentioned, short sketches of the music and stories of the cantatas are presented, together with biographies of their composers, some of which are reproduced from the other volumes with slight changes, the repetitions being necessary for the sake of uniformity. The sketches are prefaced by a comprehensive study of the cantata in its various forms, from its early simple recitative or aria style down to its present elaborate construction, which sometimes verges closely upon that of the opera or oratorio.

The word "cantata" is so flexible and covers such a wide area in music, that it has been a work of some difficulty to decide upon the compositions that properly come within the scheme of this volume. During the past two centuries it has been variously applied to songs, like those of the early Italian school; to ballads, like those of the early English composers; to concert arias, like those of Mozart, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn; to short operettas, dramatic scenas, cycles of ballads, and even to oratorios, whose subjects are more or less dramatic. It is believed, however, that the most important of the modern cantatas are included in the volume, and with them will be found several works, such as the "Damnation of Faust" and the "Romeo and Juliet" vocal symphony and others, which, though not in the strict cantata form, are nevertheless compositions belonging to the concert stage for voices and orchestra, performed without scenery, costumes, or stage accessories.

The author has paid particular attention to cantatas by American composers, and has selected for description and analysis those which in his estimation rank the highest in musical merit. It would be manifestly impossible to include in a volume of the present size all the compositions by Americans which have been called cantatas, for their number is well nigh "legion." Those have been selected which are creditable to American musical scholarship and are making a name for American music. It is possible some have been omitted which fulfil these conditions; if so, it is only because they have not come within the author's observation. The Appendix has been a work of great care, labor, and research, and wherever it was practicable the date of each cantata was verified.

Like its two predecessors, the "Standard Cantatas" has been prepared for the general public, which has not the time or opportunity to investigate such matters, rather than for musicians, who are presumed to be familiar with them. On this account the text is made as untechnical as possible, and description takes the place of criticism. The work is intended to answer the purpose of a handbook and guide which shall acquaint the reader with the principal facts and accomplishments in this very interesting form of composition. The favor so generously accorded to the "Standard Operas" and "Standard Oratorios" leads the author to hope that this volume will also be welcome to music lovers, and will find a place by the side of its companions in their libraries... Continue reading book >>

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