For other uses, see Cadenza (disambiguation).
Cadenza indication from Beethoven's Piano Concerto in C minor: fermata over rest indicates beginning, fermata over shake indicates close.[1]  Play 
Cadenza indication from the first movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto in B major, K. 595.[2]  Play  The I6
VI progression at the cadenza is typical of the Classical concerto.[2]
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[3]  Play 
Cadenza in Mozart's Violin Concerto K. 271a, III.[4]  Play pause  or  Play written out  cadenza

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 for 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 usually will occur over the final or penultimate note in a piece, or over the final or penultimate note in an important subsection of a piece. It can also be found before a final coda or ritornello.[2]

In concerti

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, the 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. The 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.

As a vocal flourish

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.

In jazz

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."[5] 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 of cadenzas

Composed cadenzas

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


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Sir George Grove (1904). Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol. 1, p.442. John Alexander Fuller-Maitland, ed. Macmillan Company.
  2. 1 2 3 Randel, Don Michael (2003). The Harvard Dictionary of Music, p.132. ISBN 978-0-674-01163-2.
  3. Kinderman, William (2006). Mozart's Piano Music, Ex.4.2. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199880164.
  4. Kostka, Stefan and Payne, Dorothy (1995). Tonal Harmony, p.143. ISBN 0073000566.
  5. Reitzes, David (1998). "A Love Supreme: God Breathes Through John Coltrane". Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  6. 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.
  7. "Manual of Cadenzas & Cadences", Creighton's Collection.
  8. Puritz, Gerd. "Schumann and Strauss". Elisabeth Schumann, A Biography. Grant & Cutler Ltd, London. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  9. "Scores of Friedrich Wuhrer",
  10. Rachmaninoff plays Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. YouTube. 2007-07-27. Retrieved 2014-02-28.
  11. 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.
  12. "

Further reading

External links

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