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 The trial is a bed represented by a horizontal beam of light that ever so slowly rises like a giant clock hand and then lifts into space, accompanied by a rhapsodic organ cadenza. Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, "Philip Glass and ‘Einstein on the Beach’: How one opera changed everything," 18 Nov. 2020 Abduraimov got a little carried away in the first-movement cadenza, building up a massive Lisztian climax out of proportion with its surroundings. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, "Refreshing Beethoven from conductor Roderick Cox, pianist Behzod Abduraimov and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra," 23 Oct. 2020 The ascending trills in the cadenza of the adagio of the Brahms first piano concerto, each joined by the next and then prolonged with a touch of the pedal—just a little, nothing showy—had a resonance like the shimmering of the universe. The Economist, "Right hand, left hand Leon Fleisher died on August 2nd," 15 Aug. 2020 There's a little 13-second pocket — called a cadenza — where freestyle vocal gymnastics are encouraged. Mark Kennedy, USA TODAY, "Can you sing? Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Phantom of the Opera' contest seeks singer with style," 25 Apr. 2020 Here, the clarinet finishes the thought in a playful cadenza. Madeleine Kearns, National Review, "Schubert in Spring," 4 Apr. 2020 Her first-movement cadenza was a dance that had one foot in an aristocratic court and the other in the country. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, "Review: A Tale of Two Women at the New York Philharmonic," 14 Feb. 2020 Faust’s cadenza in the Allegro, her own arrangement of a version of the concerto for piano and soloist, was a joy, a panoramic mix of martial melody and virtuoso technical display. Zachary Lewis, cleveland, "Cleveland Orchestra guests put welcome personal stamps on well-known Beethoven, Mozart," 14 Feb. 2020 The first-movement cadenza was Fritz Kreisler’s rather extravagant one. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, "Wonderfully fresh Beethoven from violinist Midori and the Fort Worth Symphony," 9 Feb. 2020

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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Cite this Entry

“Cadenza.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for cadenza



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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