ca·​den·​za | \ kə-ˈden-zə How to pronounce cadenza (audio) \

Definition of cadenza

1 : a parenthetical flourish in an aria or other solo piece commonly just before a final or other important cadence
2 : a technically brilliant sometimes improvised solo passage toward the close of a concerto
3 : an exceptionally brilliant part of an artistic and especially a literary work

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A concerto is a large piece for an instrumental soloist (usually playing piano or violin) and orchestra. Concertos are often extremely demanding for the soloist, but the most difficult part of all may be the cadenza, when the orchestra drops out completely, leaving the soloist to dazzle the audience with a set of flourishes, often completely original, right before a movement ends. Cadenzas are also heard in many vocal arias, especially those of the 18th century. The word, borrowed from Italian, originally meant "cadence;" thus, the cadenza, even if it lasts for a couple of minutes, is essentially a decoration of the final important harmonic cadence of the piece.

Examples of cadenza in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The cadenza in the first movement was arrestingly rhapsodic, and the second movement was gorgeously shaped and juicy with portamento. Hannah Edgar, Chicago Tribune, 29 Apr. 2022 The Larghetto, for instance, was a marvel of technical and emotional craftsmanship, and by dipping so low in the Allegro, Tetzlaff left ample room for contrast and beautifully set up a fresh cadenza with timpani. Zachary Lewis, cleveland, 15 Apr. 2022 Kenny—instead of improvising a brief cadenza, as Gardiner had intended—held a single note for ten minutes, with a technique known as circular breathing (in effect, breathing in through the nose while blowing the sax), and got a standing ovation. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 4 Dec. 2021 Extraneous noise — a drawback of outdoor performances — intruded upon the piano cadenza in the first movement. San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 Oct. 2021 Her cadenza toward the close of the first movement was a feat of control and abandon, a stunning balance of the explosive and expressive — especially its soft landing. Washington Post, 1 Oct. 2021 Gratifyingly, the soloists turned this into an unusually rich dialogue while also finding so much common ground in the first movement cadenza that some in the audience burst into spontaneous applause. Los Angeles Times, 30 Sep. 2021 One of those lessons was about the very first note of the violin — a wide open G that cracks open like first light before soaring into a cresting cadenza. Washington Post, 15 Sep. 2021 Flute then clarinet take solos, until later, when two flutes play a double cadenza that’s later echoed by twin clarinets. Hannah Edgar,, 21 Aug. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cadenza.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of cadenza

1783, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for cadenza

borrowed from Italian, probably borrowed from Medieval Latin cadentia "rhythm in verse, cadence" — more at cadence

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The first known use of cadenza was in 1783

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Last Updated

2 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cadenza.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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