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

But Davis’ cadenza was not so much a jazz statement as a linkage between jazz and its antecedents in ancient Africa. Howard Reich,, "Chicago Jazz Philharmonic delivers urgent message with 'Chicago Immigrant Stories'," 15 June 2018 That barnstorm preceded another, the festival-closer and one of her specialties: Ligeti’s dazzling concerto, a party that ended — in this version of the final cadenza — with the whole orchestra joining Ms. Kopatchinskaja in song. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, "A Quirky Violinist and a Festival to Match," 11 June 2018 The first movement cadenza, which Kopatchinsakaja patterned after one Beethoven wrote for a piano transcription of the concerto, had her in riotous dialogue with the timpanist and other members of the ensemble. Mark Swed,, "Beethoven rolls over at the Ojai Music Festival," 8 June 2018 The first-movement cadenza continued in that vein (along with unexpected flashes of humor) but with more richness to come. David Patrick Stearns,, "Yannick and Grimaud connect like soul mates in Beethoven's 'Piano Concerto No. 4'," 18 May 2018 Alexandra Nowakowski more than filled out the demands of this exhilarating stretch — trills, runs, its own cadenza, and a spectacular high D near the end. Peter Dobrin,, "A mixed 'Ariadne auf Naxos' at the Academy of Vocal Arts," 2 Mar. 2018 The composition breaks from the three-movement concerto model by expanding the traditional cadenza into its own movement. Jessica Rudman,, "HSO Plays A Superb Shostakovich Program To Two Standing Ovations," 5 May 2018 Thus, the foursome has many of the lyrical and dramatic possibilities of any concerto soloist, though not the agility that one associates with, say, a violinist who leaps into the ozone during the cadenza. David Patrick Stearns,, "Philly Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon delights Chicago with a new world premiere, coming here soon," 2 Feb. 2018 Harpist Mindy Cutcher had some genuinely individualistic moves in a cadenza. Peter Dobrin,, "Despite feathery textures from the 'Swan Lake' pit, orchestra has some work to do," 9 Mar. 2018

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

Italian, cadence, cadenza

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Dictionary Entries near cadenza


cadency mark



cade oil


cadet blue

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The first known use of cadenza was in 1783

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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

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

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