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SCHERZO (Italian for " a joke ")

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Originally appearing in Volume V24, Page 321 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SCHERZO (Italian for " a joke "), in music, the name given to a quick movement evolved from the minuet and used in the position thereof in the sonata forms. The term is occasionally applied otherwise, as a mere character name. Haydn first used it for a middle movement quicker than a minuet, in the comparatively early set of six quartets known sometimes (for that reason) as Gli Scherzi, and sometimes as the Russian quartets (Op. 33). He never used the term again, though his later minuets, especially those in the Salomon symphonies, and the last completed quartets (Op. 77), are in a very rapid tempo and on a larger scale than any of the earlier scherzos of Beethoven. Haydn wished to see the minuet made more worthy of its position in large sonata works; but he did not live to appreciate (though he might possibly have heard) the great scherzos of his pupil Beethoven, which brought the element of the sublime into what may be generically termed the dance movement of the sonata style. With rare exceptions Beethoven not only retained the dance character in lively middle movements, but accentuated it to the utmost in terms of what we have elsewhere called " dramatic " as distinguished from " decorative " music. He took those features of minuet form and style which most contrast the minuet with the larger and more highly organized movements, and he devised a form that emphasized them as they have never been emphasized before or since. The distinctive external feature in the minuet and trio is the combination of melodic binary forms with an exact da capo of the minuet after the trio; no other movement in the sonata admitting of so purely decorative a symmetry. The form of Beethoven's typical scherzo purposely exaggerates this feature. Mozart had frequently enriched minuets by giving them two or even three trios, with the minuet da capo after each. Beethoven does not do this; for, the general structure and texture of his scherzos being more continuous and highly organized, the variety of themes thereby produced would tend to give the form an elaborate rondo character which would not have differentiated it sufficiently
End of Article: SCHERZO (Italian for " a joke ")
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JOHANNES SCHERR (1817—1886)
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JOHN CHRISTIAN SCHETKY (1778-1874)

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