Friday, August 7, 2009

What is a Cadenza

I just had a visitor chat with me through my chatback application who asked the question, "What is a Cadenza?" I have been asked this question a few times before, so I thought it would be worth adding to my blog.

A cadenza is a section in a music solo where the soloist or performer should improvise the music. This can be confusing to students or pianists because when you typically see the word "cadenza" in a score it accompanies a flamboyant section of music already written out. This is because the composer would write out one or more "suggestions" or ideas typically for the benefit of one of their pupils. For example, there is a cadenza before the last section of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. Liszt actually wrote out several suggestions or ideas for the cadenza and offered those to various students. However, it is most certain that Liszt would improvise his own cadenza at each performance.

In modern times we seldom witness or hear an artist improvise a cadenza, but rather, they play the suggested music offered by the composer (or an editor, if the composer did not write one). This is a bit disheartening as the art of improvisation is lost among classical musicians. Fortunately, there is a slowly growing trend that is bringing improvisation back into the classical world - where it rightly should belong! Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt and many (if not most) of the great composers of the past were also talented improvisors. So hopefully this same spirit will reignite among pianists of our day!