2023 Author: Leah Sherlock | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 12:28
A scherzo in music is a work written in a very moving tempo. In Italian, scherzo means "joke". Such a piece is characterized mainly by a triple meter, fast tempo and sharp rhythmic turns. A sharp change in contrasting artistic images is another characteristic feature of this work. The following will describe in more detail what a scherzo is and how it is used in the work of various composers.
Characteristic features and history of occurrence
What is a scherzo can be understood by considering its main characteristics. This is, first of all, musical humor. Unexpected juxtaposition of artistic images, change of moods, registers and instruments shifting, moving tempo, rhythmic features are just some of the techniques that composers use when creating a musical joke, which are typical for this work. The range of transmitted images here is the most diverse - fantastic, grotesque, bizarre,but always humorous. Sometimes the scherzo acquired a folk-genre coloring.
For several centuries, the attitude of composers towards this genre has undergone some changes.
The first examples of a musical joke can be found in the 16th century in the vocal music of C. Monteverdi. Then they were called canzonettes. Joking humorous poems were used for them.
To the 17th century, an instrumental scherzo appears. Initially, it was one of the parts of an instrumental suite or partita. In this form, this work is found in the work of I. S. Bach. The most famous of them is the Scherzo from Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, where the flute is the soloist. Nowadays, it is often performed as a standalone piece.
Scherzo as part of a sonata-symphony cycle
From the end of the 18th century, it becomes part of the sonata-symphony cycle, gradually replacing the minuet.
For the first time in this capacity, the scherzo appears in the founder of Viennese classicism, Joseph Haydn, in Sonata No. 9 for piano. But in his work it does not become a tradition. Only with time, the scherzo, as part of the sonata-symphony cycle, was established in the sonatas and symphonies of L. Beethoven. Analyzing his work, one can see that in his early symphonies and sonatas, the composer introduces only the features of a scherzo into the minuet. Later, the minuet is completely replaced by it.
In subsequent centuries, the scherzo, as part of the sonata-symphony cycle, continues to exist in the symphonic work of D. Shostakovich,G. Mahler, A. Bruckner.
Determining what a scherzo is in a sonata-symphony cycle, and what is the significance of this movement, it is necessary to note its exceptionally important role in the overall dramaturgy of the cycle.
Scherzo is an independent genre of instrumental music
At the beginning of the 19th century, the scherzo went beyond the sonata-symphony cycle and became a genre of instrumental music. It is a standalone piece of music. The main features in it are preserved, and its virtuosity remains unchanged. Piano scherzos are known, for the violin, as well as for other solo instruments. This genre is approaching the capriccio.
For piano, the scherzo was written by such well-known Western European representatives of the romantic direction in music as Frederic Chopin, R. Schumann, J. Brahms. From the Russian school of composers, P. I. Tchaikovsky, M. A. Balakirev.
This genre was most developed in the piano work of F. Chopin. The composer makes it more serious, saturating it with deep dramatic and sometimes tragic content. The minor scale becomes characteristic of the scherzo.
Scherzo in music for orchestra
Analyzing what a scherzo is and how this genre is represented in different musical directions, it can be noted that composers of different eras addressed it.
This genre is widely represented in orchestral music as well.
One of the brightest examples of the orchestral scherzo is"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by French composer Paul Duc. The content is based on the story of an unlucky apprentice sorcerer who decided to do his own magic.
Other well-known examples of scherzos in orchestral music are the following works: I. Stravinsky's Fantastic Scherzo, the scherzo from the music for Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream.
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