A "cadenza" is meant to be a fancy improvisation -- a way to show off a little -- that is done at certain cadences in a piece of music, such as a violin concerto.
But for a long time, violinists have tended to learn cadenzas that were written by someone else, rather than improvising or writing the cadenzas for themselves. This week I've been in China at the Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition, and one of the major tasks they set for the contestants was to write a set of their own cadenzas for Mozart Concerto No. 5 in A major, and to perform them in the semi-finals. Over the last two days, I've heard 12 performances of Mozart 5, each with different individual cadenzas! (See videos of those in my blog about it -- click here).
Personally, I've never written a cadenza for a Mozart concerto -- or any other concerto -- despite many years of playing, teaching, studying and re-studying these works. Frankly I don't trust my skills as a composer! But I'm heartened that young violinists are encouraged to do so, because I think that their composing, improvisational and creative skills will grow as a result.
What are your thoughts on cadenzas in concertos? Should they be written by the performer? Should they be improvised on the spot, and is that practical? Or is it better to use a cadenza written by one of the great violinists from the past or present? What are some of your favorite cadenzas, and composers for cadenzas? Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts in the comments section.
You might also like:
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.