Definitions

Cadenza

Cadenza

[kuh-den-zuh]
In music, a cadenza (Italian for cadence) is, generically, an improvised or written-out ornamental passage played or sung by a soloist or soloists, usually in a "free" rhythmic style, and often allowing for virtuosic display.

Cadenza often refers to a portion of a concerto in which the orchestra stops playing, leaving the soloist to play alone in free time (without a strict, regular pulse) and can be written or improvised, depending on what the composer specifies. This normally occurs near the end of the first movement, though it can be at any point in a concerto; an example is Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, where in the first five minutes a cadenza is used. It usually is the most elaborate and virtuosic part that the solo instrument plays during the whole piece. At the end of the cadenza, the orchestra re-enters, and generally finishes off the movement on their own, or, less often, with the solo instrument.

The cadenza was originally, and remains, a vocal flourish improvised by a performer to elaborate a cadence in an aria. It was later used in instrumental music, and soon became a standard part of the concerto. Originally, it was improvised in this context as well, but during the 19th century, composers began to write cadenzas out in full. Third parties also wrote cadenzas for works in which it was intended by the composer to be improvised, so the soloist could have a well formed solo that they could practice in advance. Some of these have become so widely played and sung that they are effectively part of the standard repertoire, as is the case with Joseph Joachim's cadenza for Johannes Brahms' Violin Concerto, Beethoven's set of cadenzas for Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 20, and Estelle Liebling's edition of cadenzas for operas such as Donizetti's's La fille du Régiment and Lucia di Lammermoor.

Nowadays, very few performers improvise their cadenzas, and very few composers have written concertos or vocal pieces within the last hundred years that include the possibility of an improvised cadenza.

Perhaps the most notable deviations from this tendency towards written (or absent) cadenzas are to be found in jazz, most often at the end of a ballad, though cadenzas in this genre are usually brief and somewhat immaterial. Saxophonist John Coltrane, however, usually improvised an extended, spell-binding cadenza when performing "I Want To Talk About You", in which he showcased his predilections for scalar improvisation and multiphonics; the recorded examples (see "Coltrane Live At Birdland" and "Afro Blue Impressions"-- both live recordings) of Coltrane's "I Want To Talk About You" are approximately 8-minutes in length, with Coltrane's unaccompanied cadenza taking up approximately 3-minutes. More sardonically, Jazz critic Martin Williams once described Coltrane's improvisations on "Africa/Brass" as "essentially extended cadenzas to pieces that never get played." Equally noteworthy is saxophonist Sonny Rollins' shorter improvised cadenza at the close of "Three Little Words" (from his album "Sonny Rollins on Impulse!").

Cadenzas are also found in instrumental solos with piano or other accompaniment, where they are placed near the beginning or near the end or sometimes in both places. (e.g. "The Maid of the Mist," cornet solo by Herbert L. Clarke, or a more modern example: the end of "Think of Me" where Christine Daaè sings a short but involved cadenza, in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera.)

Notable examples of Cadenzas

  • Concertos are not the only pieces that feature cadenzas; Scena di Canta Gitano, the fourth movement of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio espagnol, contains cadenzas for violin, harp, clarinet, and flute in its beginning section.
  • The end of the first movement of Bach's fifth Brandenburg Concerto features a harpsichord solo.
  • The first movement of Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor. It is a long and impassioned cadenza which ends with the orchestra and piano playing together in a dramatic and rousing finale.
  • Mozart wrote a cadenza into the third and final movement of his Piano Sonata in B-flat major, K. 333, which was an unusual (but not unique) choice at that time because the movement is otherwise in Sonata-Rondo form.
  • Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto begins with three short cadenzas. These are notable because the composer specifies that the soloist should play the music that is written out in the score, and not improvise his own.
  • Beethoven famously included a cadenza-like solo for oboe in the recapitulation section of the first movement of his Symphony No. 5.
  • Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 3, in which the first movement features a long and difficult toccata-like cadenza with an alternative or ossia cadenza written in a heavier chordal style.
  • Fritz Kreisler's cadenzas for the first and third movements of Beethoven's Violin Concerto.
  • Carl Baermann's cadenza for the second movement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.
  • Aaron Copland: Clarinet Concerto to connect the two movements.
  • Karol Szymanowski's two violin concertos both feature cadenzas written by the violinist who was intended to play them Pawel Kochański

Composed cadenzas

Composers who have written cadenzas for other performers in works not their own include:

External links

References and further reading

  • Badura-Skoda, Eva, et al. "Cadenza". Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (subscription required). Accessed 2007-04-06.
  • Randel, Don (1986). The New Harvard Dictionary of Music. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-61525-5

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