Early English cantatas with their Italianate recitatives and da capo arias gave composers an opportunity to work in the Italian operatic style. Indeed each cantata is, in effect, a miniature opera. Fanciful plots are played out in the timeless dream world of Arcadia, the home of pastoral poetry and song. Set for a small number of performers, the chamber cantata enabled a little of the drama, if not the spectacle of the opera house, to be enjoyed in the eighteenth century drawing room. Each cantata tells a brief but complete story. Short recitatives set the scene and move the action along followed by attractive, tuneful and above all approachable arias. Far removed from the stresses of modern life (and no doubt the lives of contemporary musicians) the imagined pastoral dream world is inhabited by nymphs, shepherds and the gods and goddesses of classical mythology.
EC 1 Six English Cantatas