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Cadenza indication from Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3: fermata over rest indicates beginning, fermata over the trill indicates close.[1]
Cadenza indication from the first movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto in B major, K. 595.[2] The I6
VI progression at the cadenza is typical of the Classical concerto.[3]
Cadenza ad libitum in Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
Written-out cadenza from Mozart's K. 398 (end of variation 6) demonstrates the often unmetered quality of cadenzas.[4]
Cadenza in Mozart's Violin Concerto K. 271a, III[5]
Written out

In music, a cadenza (from Italian: cadenza [kaˈdɛntsa], meaning cadence; plural, cadenze [kaˈdɛntse]) 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 virtuosic display. During this time the accompaniment will rest, or sustain a note or chord. Thus an improvised cadenza is indicated in written notation by a fermata in all parts. A cadenza will usually occur over either the final or penultimate note in a piece, the lead-in (German: Eingang),[6] or the final or penultimate note in an important subsection of a piece. It can also be found before a final coda or ritornello.[3]

In concerti[edit]

The term 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. Sometimes, a cadenza will include small parts for other instruments besides the soloist; an example is in Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, where a solo flute, clarinet and horn are used over rippling arpeggios in the piano. A cadenza 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. The cadenza is usually 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.

Cadential trill[edit]

Typically during the classical period, a solo cadenza in a concerto would end with a trill, usually on the supertonic, preceding the re-entry of the orchestra for the movement's coda. Extended cadential trills were frequent in Mozart's piano concerti; they may also be found in violin concerti and concerti for stringed instruments of the period up to the early 19th century (see illustration at head of this article).

As a vocal flourish[edit]

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. Cadenzas for voice and wind instruments were to be performed in one breath, and they should not use distant keys.[7] Originally, it was improvised in this context as well, but during the 19th century, composers began to write cadenzas out in full.[8] 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.

In jazz[edit]

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. Saxophonist John Coltrane, however, usually improvised an extended cadenza when performing "I Want To Talk About You", in which he showcased his predilections for scalar improvisation and multiphonics. The recorded examples of "I Want To Talk About You" (Live at Birdland and Afro Blue Impressions) 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."[9] Equally noteworthy is saxophonist Sonny Rollins' shorter improvised cadenza at the close of "Three Little Words" (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 Daaé sings a short but involved cadenza, in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera).

Notable examples[edit]

Composed cadenzas[edit]

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


  1. ^ a b c d e Sir George Grove (1904). Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol. 1, p. 442. John Alexander Fuller-Maitland, ed. Macmillan Company.
  2. ^ Randel, Don Michael (2003). Harvard Dictionary of Music. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-674-01163-2.
  3. ^ a b Randel 2003.
  4. ^ Kinderman, William (2006). Mozart's Piano Music, Ex. 4.2. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199880164.
  5. ^ Kostka, Stefan and Payne, Dorothy (1995). Tonal Harmony, p. 143. ISBN 0073000566.
  6. ^ Keefe, Simon P. (2003). The Cambridge Companion to Mozart. Cambridge University Press. p. 265. ISBN 9781139826648.
  7. ^ Agricola, Johann Friedrich (1995). Introduction to the Art of Singing. Translated by Julianne C. Baird. Cambridge University Press. p. 211. ISBN 9780521454285.
  8. ^ Latham, Alison (2002). The Oxford Companion to Music. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 194. ISBN 9780198662129.
  9. ^ Reitzes, David (1998). "A Love Supreme: God Breathes Through John Coltrane". Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  10. ^ Jacob, Heinrich Eduard (1940). Johann Strauss – A Century of Light Music. Hutchinson. p. 294.
  11. ^ Jerome Kohl, Karlheinz Stockhausen: Zeitmaße, Landmarks in Music Since 1950, edited by Wyndham Thomas (Abingdon, Oxon; London; New York: Routledge, 2017): 89–121. ISBN 978-0-7546-5334-9.
  12. ^ "Manual of Cadenzas & Cadences", Creighton's Collection.
  13. ^ Puritz, Gerd. "Schumann and Strauss". Elisabeth Schumann, A Biography. Grant & Cutler Ltd, London. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  14. ^ "Scores of Friedrich Wuhrer Archived 2009-01-15 at the Wayback Machine",
  15. ^ Rachmaninoff plays Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. YouTube. 2007-07-27. Archived from the original on 2021-12-11. Retrieved 2014-02-28.
  16. ^ Rapaport, Aaron (2012). "An American Encounter with Polystylism: Schnittke's Cadenzas to Beethoven (Master's thesis)". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  17. ^ " Archived 2016-08-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ "Itzhak Perlman Fiddler on the Roof John Williams Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, 30 09 14 (video)". YouTube. 23 January 2017. Archived from the original on 2021-12-11. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  19. ^ ""

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