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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Did You Know?

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 Indeed, cadenza is a music term that connotes improvisation — how the work of a soloist enhances and contributes to an orchestra’s overall performance. David Holahan,, "Profiles in Connecticut innovation: High-energy Cadenza makes power storage more efficient," 8 Nov. 2019 The pianist could’ve been more judicious with rubato around Grieg’s crashing chords, especially in the first movement cadenza. Globe Staff,, "At Tanglewood, Andris Nelsons and BSO shake the Shed with long-awaited Verdi Requiem," 14 July 2019 The longest of Beethoven’s three optional cadenzas outstayed its welcome. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, "Five pianists, Fort Worth Symphony perform all five Beethoven piano concertos," 5 Jan. 2020 Just as the flowing notes grew tiresome, a reflective flute cadenza, answered by shuddering strings and melancholy vibraphone, provided a respite. Washington Post, "The Knights weave old and new in concert of surprises at Dumbarton Oaks," 3 Dec. 2019 Such was the creativity of this cadenza – with its stop-start rhythms, piercing high notes and ferocious sense of swing – that some band members turned around to watch Marsalis at work. Howard Reich,, "Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra review: Wynton Marsalis and friends take on ‘Jazz Ambassadors’," 16 Nov. 2019 The first movement’s long cadenza included a dialogue between Kavakos and timpanist Tim Genis, which sounded almost like a Renaissance dance in its open harmonies and hearty rhythm. Zoë Madonna,, "Three conductors made for three days of thrills with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood," 12 Aug. 2019 In Wieniawski’s dramatic first movement cadenza, Chen combined vivid rhetoric with impeccable technique, exactly what such solo vehicles were designed to convey. Howard Reich,, "CSO review: A dynamic debut from violinist Ray Chen," 6 Dec. 2019 More intriguing was the composer’s Andante in C for Flute and Orchestra, which sounds very much like the slow movement of a flute concerto (which music historians suspect it was intended to be), complete with cadenza. Rob Hubbard, Twin Cities, "Review: SPCO celebrates 60 with warm winds and a Beethoven jam," 8 Nov. 2019

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.

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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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Time Traveler for cadenza

Time Traveler

The first known use of cadenza was in 1783

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Last Updated

28 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cadenza.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for cadenza


How to pronounce cadenza (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cadenza

: a difficult part of a piece of classical music that is performed by only one person near the end of the piece

More from Merriam-Webster on cadenza

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cadenza Encyclopedia article about cadenza

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showing steady, earnest care and effort

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