Cantata (Stravinsky)

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The Cantata by Igor Stravinsky is a work for soprano, tenor, female choir, and instrumental ensemble (of two flutes, oboe, cor anglais (doubling second oboe), and cello), and was composed from April 1951 to August 1952. The premiere performance on 11 November 1952 was by the Los Angeles (Chamber) Symphony Society (to whom the work is dedicated), conducted by Stravinsky himself. After completing the opera The Rake's Progress, Stravinsky felt the urge to compose another work setting English words, but in a non-dramatic form (White 1979, 468–69).

The piece consists of the following movements:

  1. A lyke-wake dirge. Versus I. Prelude: This ae nighte
  2. Ricercar I. The maidens came
  3. A lyke-wake dirge. Versus II. First interlude: If ever thou gav'st hos'n and shoon
  4. Ricercar II. Sacred History: To-morrow shall be my dancing day
  5. A lyke-wake dirge. Versus III. Second interlude: From Whinnymuir when thou may'st pass
  6. Westron Wind
  7. A lyke-wake dirge. Versus IV. Postlude: If ever thou gav'st meat or drink

The dirge sections concern a soul's approach to and journey through purgatory. Ricercar II sets the carol Tomorrow shall be my dancing day. Westron Wind is a sixteenth-century song.


  • White, Eric Walter. 1979. Stravinsky: The Composer and His Works, second edition. Berkeley and Los Angeles: The University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03985-8.

Further reading[edit]

  • Burde, Wolfgang. 1994. "Igor Strawinskys Annäherung an die Reihentechnik". Mitteilungen der Paul Sacher Stiftung, no. 7 (April): 18–21.
  • Carter, Chandler. 2010. "The Rake's Progress and Stravinsky’s Return: The Composer’s Evolving Approach to Setting Text". Journal of the American Musicological Society 63, no. 3 (Fall): 553–640.
  • Cushman, D. Stephen. 2000. "Stravinsky's Lyke-wake Dirge Revisited: A Possible Source". In The Varieties of Musicology: Essays in Honor of Murray Lefkowitz. Detroit Monographs in Musicology/Studies in Music 29. Edited by John Daverio and John K Ogasapian, 167–74. Warren, MI: Harmonie Park. ISBN 0-89990-093-3.
  • Ginsborg, Jane, Roger Chaffin, and George Nicholson. 2006. "Shared Performance Cues in Singing and Conducting: A Content Analysis of Talk During Practice". Psychology of Music 34, no. 2 (April): 167–94.
  • Neidhöfer, Christoph. 2004. "A Case of Cross-fertilization: Serial and Non-serial Counterpoint in Stravinsky's Cantata (1951–52)". Tijdschrift voor muziektheorie 9, no. 2 (May): 87–104.
  • Schechter, John M. 1970. "An Analysis of the Stravinsky Cantata: The Craft within the Style." M.Mus. thesis. Bloomington: Indiana University.
  • Straus, Joseph N. 1999. "Stravinsky's 'Construction of Twelve Verticals': An Aspect of Harmony in the Serial Music". Music Theory Spectrum 21, no. 1 (Spring): 43–73.