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Scherzo [ 'skerʦo ] (plural Scherzi ) is a name that has existed since 1781 for a rapid, exuberant musical sentence form in 3/4 or 3/8 time and one of the many Italianisms in German musical language.

The Scherzo (Italian; “Scherz, Fun”) has been the third movement of a sonata or symphony since Joseph Haydn's String Quartets op. 33 and later with Ludwig van Beethoven . It went out of the minuet indicate a three-part dance set in a 3/4-time, in the Viennese classics , for example, Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was integrated in sonata or symphony and its origins again in courtly dance music of the Baroque has .

It is often difficult to distinguish between a minuet and a scherzo. So Haydn returned to the term “minuet” after op. 33, although the third movements in many of his late symphonies and even more so in the string quartets op. 76 and 77 are partly pure Scherzi (often with the tempo designation Allegro or Presto). Beethoven avoided the conceptual problem by often completely dispensing with the use of the terms “minuet” or “scherzo” from the middle of his creative period (for example in the 5th symphony ).

A Scherzo is mostly agitated (fast) and played cheerfully and lively ( tempo designations in music : Allegro, Vivace or Presto). Sometimes there are metrical “aberrations”, in that the 3/4 time is overlaid by 2/4 phrases, for example. The usual form scheme is, as in the minuet, Scherzo - Trio - Scherzo ; Beethoven already treated the form fairly freely. In the music of the Romantic period, further middle parts are often added, so that the scheme can be called A - B - A '- C - A " , for example.

The Scherzo can develop different colors: from the cheerful dance movement to demonic ( Frédéric Chopin in his contributions to the genre, Charles Valentin Alkan 'Scherzo diabolico'), buzzing and floating ( Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy ), powerful and rustic ( Anton Bruckner ), more melancholy , grotesque ( Gustav Mahler ) or tragicomic ( Dmitri Schostakowitsch ) atmosphere.