antiphon — in liturgical music (especially in the Roman Catholic singing of the Divine Office), a short phrase sung before and/or after a psalm or canticle. The antiphon can reinforce the meaning of the text, or it can draw out a distinctively Christian understanding from the Old Testament text being framed.
aria — a piece for accompanied solo voice that is part of a larger work (e.g., cantata, opera, etc.). Arias are often employed to convey emotional content and often include — unlike recitatives — repetition of words and phrases with musical elaboration.
basso continuo — literally, “continuous bass, ” this term designates an instrumental accompaniment, usually by a keyboard instrument, often paired with a double bass or a bassoon. Often referred to simply as “continuo,” this instrumental component of much 17th- and 18th-century music provides a harmonic framework within which other voices or instruments orient their melodic statements.
BWV — the abbreviation for the standard list or catalogue of all of Johann Sebastian Bach’s works.
chorale — a metrical hymn tune common in Lutheran hymnody and in musical compositions that incorporate elements from the Lutheran musical tradition. Many cantatas by J. S. Bach and others often include final movements in which the chorale is sung in four-part harmony, but chorales melodies are often employed in more complex musical forms. For example, Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 is often called the ‘Reformation’ Symphony because he employed the chorale we know as “A Mighty Fortress” in its composition.
continuo — short for basso continuo
recitative — a piece for solo voice within a larger work, usually short, unadorned, and often directly advancing the “story line” of the work. Like chant, the rhythms of recitatives follow the speech patterns of spoken words much more closely than do arias.
S.A.T.B. — an abbreviation indicating a piece that includes vocal parts for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices.