AskDefine | Define scherzo

Dictionary Definition

scherzo n : a fast movement (usually in triple time) [also: scherzi (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



From scherzo.


  • /'skɛ:tsəʊ/


  1. A piece of music or a movement from a larger piece such as a symphony; especially, a piece of music played in a playful manner.
    • 1980, Anthony Burgess, Earthly Powers:
      At seven Val knocked – three shorts and one long, out of the scherzo of Beethoven’s Fifth – and I rushed to open.


See also



IPA: /'skerʦo/


  1. joke, jest, trick, hoax
  2. (something easy to do) joke, trifle, cinch
  3. scherzo

Verb form


Extensive Definition

A scherzo (plural scherzi) is a piece of music or a movement, in a certain style, that forms part of a larger piece such as a symphony. The word means "joke" in Italian. Sometimes the word scherzando is used in musical notation to indicate that a passage should be played in a playful manner.
The scherzo developed from the minuet, and gradually came to replace it as the third (or sometimes second) movement in symphonies, string quartets, sonatas and similar works. It traditionally retains the triple meter time signature and ternary form of the minuet, but is considerably quicker. It is often, but not always, of a light-hearted nature. A few examples of scherzi exist which are not in the customary triple meter, such as in Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 18. The scherzo itself is a rounded binary form; but, like the minuet, is usually played with the accompanying Trio followed by a repeat of the Scherzo, creating the ABA or ternary form. This is sometimes done twice or more (ABABA). The "B" theme is a trio, a lighter passage for fewer instruments. It is not necessarily for only three instruments, as the name implies, except in early Baroque music.
Joseph Haydn wrote minuets which are very close to scherzi in tone, but it was Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert who first used the form widely, with Beethoven in particular turning the polite rhythm of the minuet into a much more intense — and sometimes even savage — dance.
Most of Beethoven's scherzi such as that of Beethoven's Pastoral symphony (No. 6) contain two appearances of the trio, in which the second is sometimes varied and after the second of which the scherzo material often returns much foreshortened by way of a coda. Schumann, as noted by Cedric Thorpe-Davie would very often use two trios also, but different trios.
The scherzo remained a standard movement in the symphony and related forms through the 19th century. Composers also began to write scherzi as pieces in themselves, stretching the boundaries of the form. Out of Frédéric Chopin's four well-known scherzi for the piano, the first three are especially dark and dramatic, and hardly come off as jokes. Robert Schumann remarked of them, "How is gravity to clothe itself if jest goes about in dark veils?" In addition, the Brahms regarded the scherzo from his Second Piano Concerto in B-flat, Op. 83 as a "tiny wisp of a scherzo," but it is extremely heavy, dark, and passionate.
An unrelated use of the word in music is in light-hearted madrigals of the Renaissance period, which were often called scherzi musicali. Claudio Monteverdi, for example, wrote two sets of works with this title, the first in 1607, the second in 1632.
scherzo in Czech: Scherzo
scherzo in German: Scherzo
scherzo in Spanish: Scherzo
scherzo in French: Scherzo
scherzo in Italian: Scherzo
scherzo in Hebrew: סקרצו
scherzo in Dutch: Scherzo
scherzo in Japanese: スケルツォ
scherzo in Norwegian: Scherzo
scherzo in Polish: Scherzo
scherzo in Portuguese: Scherzo
scherzo in Romanian: Scherzo
scherzo in Russian: Скерцо
scherzo in Sicilian: Babbìu
scherzo in Simple English: Scherzo
scherzo in Serbian: Скерцо
scherzo in Finnish: Scherzo
scherzo in Swedish: Scherzo
scherzo in Chinese: 诙谐曲

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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