scherzo skĕr´tsō [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.
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