scherzo (skĕrˈtsō) [key] [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, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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