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Exploring the often surprising links between concepts, themes and people in classical music, from medieval to modern


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Saturday, July 14, 2018 Permalink

The Scherzo Connection

"Symphony No 2 Scherzo," painting by Caroline Tate []


Allegro, adagio, presto, largo.

More often than not, composers give movements an Italian name that indicates how fast— or slow—they should be played.

But there is an exception—the scherzo.

For this Italian word means “jest” or “joke.”

In this hour, how the scherzo came to be—and what it unexpectedly became.


Title Group/Artist Catalog # UPC
Masterpieces in Miniature [for Litolf] San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas SFS Media 821936-0060-2 821936006023  
Haydn: Complete String Quartets Angeles String Quartet Philips 464 650-2 028946465028
Haydn:  Symphonies Nos. 40-54 Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Adam Fischer Nimbus NI 5530/4 710357553028
Beethoven: 9 Symphonies [for Sympony No. 3 “Eroica”] Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Nikolaus Harnoncourt Teldec 2292-46452-2 022924645228
Chopin: 4 Scherzi, Maurizio Pollini Deutsche Grammophon 431623 028943162326
Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream London Symphony Orchestra, Andre Previn EMI Classics CDC 7471632 00724357498128
Tchaikovsky: Complete Symphonies New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein Sony SM5K87987 5099708798727
Dvorak: Symphonies [for Scherzo Capriccioso] London Symphony Orchestra, Istvan Kertesz London (Decca) 430 046-2 028943004626
Stravinsky: Shadow Dances [for Scherzo a la Russe]  Orpheus Chamber Ensemble Deutsche Grammophon 453 458-2 028945345826
Metcalf: Paths of Song [for Septet] Solstice Quartet, Eleanor,  Philippa Davies, David Campbell Signum Classics SIGCD203 635212020326

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