Cadenza writing tips
My son (8th grader) is currently filling in a gap in his training by learning Mozart 3. Because the piece is not technically challenging for him, he and his teacher are focusing mostly on Mozart style, and he will be writing his own cadenzas.
I've helped him a bit by giving him general strategies (ie aim for it having a 3-part form, use snippets from the melody), as well as some thematic transformation ideas (change the octave/key/mode/rhythm, add double stops, etc.) I also gave him a very brief intro to galant tropes, especially modulating ones, to give him ideas how to get from one place to another harmonically.
He's come up with a bunch of good ideas, mostly by improvising and recording the improvised bits he likes. But he is having some trouble assembling all the bits into a coherent whole.
Others who have written cadenzas -- any tips?
Don't make it too long.
Try and hear Leonard Elschenbroich - He had me transfixed with his improvised cadenza to the Haydn cello concerto.
Great question! I've been asked to write a very short "cadenza" for a gap-filler in my repertoire too. This is a first for me and I appreciate reading what you have here, and look forward to others' responses.
Susan, I think your advice is "right on!"
Cotton Mather - what would you say is too long? I told him 1-2 minutes.
For Mozart, I would try to stay under two minutes, unless you have a really cool idea for an orchestral cadenza (probably not).
You're probably already doing this, but writing down the ideas will help organize them, and you can maybe move things around more easily and try out different ideas and think about ways to connect bits. Slow things down with long notes before the final run to the tonic; contrast is always good.
Coherent whole? I've scarcely heard any such cadenza. But I see what you mean ... you don't want it to be like a Christmas sing-along medley with jarring transitions that go through half the circle-of-fifths to arrive at the new key.
Many years ago in my far-off youth I composed a cadenza for the first movement of Haydn's C maj Cello Concerto for a performance I was due to give. The concerto had fairly recently been discovered, I think there was only one LP recording available, the cadenza on it sounding far too modern for the 18th century, and the published score had a nominal "cadenza" of half-a-dozen notes, so I decided to compose a short one for the performance.
Robert Levin improvises his own Mozart PC cadenzas, which are worth a listen. During concert prep he will literally never play the same thing twice. I think he has also prepared cookbooks for the violin concertos: at least some of them.
Thanks for all the ideas! Paul Deck, he has already studied a bunch of cadenzas, including Hadelich's, which if anybody is interested, is on his website. That is definitely helping. He needs to take your comment about lyrical stuff to heart -- so far lots of fireworks and not much else.
Harmonically, a cadenza is basically one long V chord.
"a cadenza is a long V chord". I "like" this comment.
If you look at what chord the orchestra plays just before a cadenza (especially in the typical Mozart/Haydn/Beethoven era), it's almost always a V chord. The cadenza may of course run through several keys, but the big picture is that it's just a prolongation of V. The cadenza ends with a conclusive cadence on I as the orchestra wraps it up.
Yes, I understood what you meant. :)
I "assembled" cadenzas for a Stamitz viola concerto (the editor's ones were very aimless) by grafting motifs from the movements onto harmonic schemes from Mozart (cadenzas and piano fantasias). The result was rather better than the Stamitz itself...
1) I personally would keep most (if not all) aspects of the cadenza within the musical limits of the piece. For instance - no weird chromatic harmonies, glissandos, up bow staccato, or such in a Mozart concerto.
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.