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(skĕr`tsō) [Ital.,=joke], in music, term denoting various types of composition, primarily one that is lively and presents surprises in the rhythmic or melodic material. In 1607 a group of light pieces for voice were published by Monteverdi as scherzi musicali. In the symphonies and string quartets of Haydn the scherzo was a development of the minuet, and in Beethoven's works it replaced the minuet as the third movement of a work in sonata form. Mendelssohn gives the scherzo an airy grace, while the four piano scherzos of Chopin are works of boldness and strength.



(1) In Italian music of the 16th and 17th centuries, monophonic and polyphonic vocal pieces with humorous texts.

(2) An instrumental work similar to the capriccio, frequently included in instrumental suites. From the late 18th century the scherzo was part of the sonata form (the symphony, sonata, quartet, and sometimes, the concerto), replacing the minuet, usually the third movement. The scherzo is characterized by 3/4 or 3/8 time, a rapid tempo, and a free shifting of musical ideas that introduces an element of the unexpected. Like the burlesque, the scherzo is often associated with the expression of humor, ranging from the lighthearted to the darkly ominous and grotesque. The scherzo is usually written in a three-part, reprise form, with a trio in a more serene mood.

The classical scherzo was perfected by Beethoven. Later outstanding masters of the scherzo as a movement in the sonata form were the Western European composers Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Bruckner; the Russian composers P. I. Tchaikovsky and A. P. Borodin; and the Soviet composers N. I. Mias-kovskii, S. S. Prokofiev, and D. D. Shostakovich. During the romantic period the scherzo was revived as an independent piece by Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, M. A. Balakirev, and Tchaikovsky, who composed scherzos for piano, and by Mendelssohn, P. Dukas, and M. P. Mussorgsky, who composed scherzos for orchestra.


Music a brisk lively movement, developed from the minuet, with a contrastive middle section (a trio)
References in periodicals archive ?
4, a work calling out for contrasting tempi, ferocity and pathos (the dawdling variation movement, the not overly brazen Scherzo and the more elegiac than dramatic first movement).
Inner movements remain comparatively neglected and Ryan McClelland's new book on Brahms's scherzos seeks to redress this imbalance.
Fantasy, Scherzo and Nocturne is a three-movement piece approximately 10 minutes in duration.
The scherzo gave us real peasants; sweaty, shod in hobnail boots with garlic and beer on their breath, not the city-dwellers in fancy dress we too often get.
A second scherzo leads to the celebratory coda, a joyous dance.
Around him, Wilson used expansive, sweeping motions to crochet the mystical theme of the opening moderato and crisp orchestral ripostes to the cello in Walton's central scherzo.
It's a piece veering from pensive melancholy, through a devilish scherzo to a cataclysmic finale, ending in glorious affirmation - a summation of Mahler.
To experience this wonderful artist's technique at its most breathtaking nothing could touch his fluent account of Chopin's hugely difficult Scherzo No.
The second movement was practically operatic, and what the third-movement scherzo lacked in joy it made up for in tightly focused string sound.
A ravishing adagio and compelling scherzo were highlights of a performance that, again, lit up a dark and damp autumn evening
Stravinsky: The Firebird, complete; Fireworks; Tango; Scherzo a la russe; The Song of the Nightingale.
The programme includes Nocturnes, Preludes, Fantasy Impromptu, Polonaise in A and Scherzo No.