Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.


(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.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(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.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Music a brisk lively movement, developed from the minuet, with a contrastive middle section (a trio)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
2.2 II secondo canto degli uccelli: Variazioni sullo stesso scherzo
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.
(Essays 39) Ives's delineation of Hawthorne's "substance" applies equally well to his own scherzo.
Moreover, Bernstein chooses to place the Scherzo second, followed by the Andante (Mahler's original order), while Abbado follows Mahler's revised order, placing the Scherzo after the Andante.
In each section, the various poems represent in some way the section's theme; for example, the Scherzo section contains poems that end in a "surprise" or conclude with a note of humor.
Brighton: 2.00 Welcome Approach, 2.30 Scherzo a la Russe, 3.40 Pepper Road, 4.50 Melvino.
We hear that NIGELLA is worth bearing in mind from Ed McMahon's yard while Brian Meehan's two-year-olds are finding their stride and MUSICAL ROMANCE is one to look out for as is David Barron's SCHERZO A LA RUSSE, who has the potential to be a bookmaker's, as well as commentator's nightmare.
The second movement is a boisterous scherzo. But the heart of the symphony is the adagio, with its deep, rich harmonies, particularly from the horns.
In an essay notable for its subtle literary analysis, Anthony Colantuono explores Bellori's use of the word scherzo, drawing parallels to its usage in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poetics.