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date: 14 December 2019

Cadenza (from It.: ‘cadence’)locked

  • Eva Badura-Skoda,
  • Andrew V. Jones
  •  and William Drabkin


(from It.: ‘cadence’)

A virtuoso passage inserted near the end of a concerto movement or aria, usually indicated by the appearance of a fermata over an inconclusive chord such as the tonic 6-4. Cadenzas may either be improvised by a performer or written out by the composer; in the latter case the cadenza is often an important structural part of the movement. In a broad sense the term ‘cadenza’ can refer to simple ornaments on the penultimate note of a cadence, or to any accumulation of elaborate embellishments inserted near the end of a section or at fermata points. (See also Improvisation, §IV.)

Eva Badura-Skoda, revised by Andrew V. Jones

The term ‘cadenza’ first appeared shortly before 1500 as a synonym for the Latin ‘clausula’, meaning conclusion (the Latin word ‘cadentia’ came into use later). Both terms are derived from cadere (‘to fall’) and originally referred to a descending melodic line before the final note of a section (...

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