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Thread: Favourite Orchestral Scherzo?

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Default Favourite Orchestral Scherzo?

    So, what are your favourite orchestral scherzos?

    Certainly Beethoven had marvelous ones, the 9th immediately coming to mind... but there are so many!

    Instead of creating a poll where your favourite choice may not be, lets just keep a running commentary here, I'm sure some interesting and rare ones will come up.

    As for me, my favourite is the 3rd mvmt of Bruckner 4th!

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    Senior Member ChamberNut's Avatar
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    There are many great scherzos. I love the grand Molto vivace 2nd mvt. of Beethoven's 9th, as you mentioned. That is certainly near the top my list.

    If I can only pick one favorite, it would have to be the 2nd mvt. Scherzo of Bruckner's 9th Symphony.

    However, if I'm not forced to pick just one, here are some more of my favorites:



    Beethoven - Symphony # 3, 3rd mvt.;

    Beethoven - Symphony # 6 Pastoral, 3rd and 4th mvts. An impressive contrast to the remainder of this serene and peaceful work.

    Beethoven - Symphony # 7, 3rd mvt.

    Schumann - Symphony No. 4, 3rd mvt.

    Bruckner - Symphony No. 3 , 3rd mvt.

    Bruckner - Symphony No. 6, 3rd mvt

    Bruckner - Symphony No. 7, 3rd mvt.

    Bruckner - Symphony No. 4, 3rd mvt.

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    Senior Member Lisztfreak's Avatar
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    Mmmm, scherzos are delicious. So simple yet such fun.

    Sibelius - Symphony no.1, 3rd mvt. : I've posted it already, it's an excellent little scherzo
    and the timpani make it so memorable. Also the one in his 6th.

    Bruckner - I love both his 4th and 9th Sym scherzos (nearly as much as you do,
    ChamberNut ). The one in the 4th is in a forest hunting mood, and the 9th a
    scary, doom-day and explosive movement.

    Beethoven - especially the scherzos in his 7th, 3rd, 5th and 9th

    Brahms - Symphony no.4, 3rd mvt.

    Schumann - Symphony no.4, 3rd mvt. Yes, it's cool.

    Liszt - the 'Mephisto' of his Faust Symphony, which is in fact a scherzo based on
    earlier Faust themes. Grotesque, terribly chromatic and bitingly ironical.

    These are only my top favourites.
    ''Oh, the String Quartet - oh, the Divine Scratching!''

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    Senior Member Keemun's Avatar
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    How can I tell if a movement is a scherzo? A number of the movements identified above as scherzos are not actually labeled "scherzo." I researched the definition of "scherzo" but there doesn't seem to be a concrete rule as to what is considered a scherzo and what is not. From what I can tell, a scherzo is usually, but not always, in 3/4 time. Likewise, it is usually, but not always, "lively," "light-hearted," etc. Does a quick tempo make it a scherzo? Is there a right or wrong answer to whether a movement is a scherzo, or is it a subjective determination?

    Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.
    - Ludwig van Beethoven

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    Senior Member Lisztfreak's Avatar
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    Well, it's hard to say for sure - like you, Keemun, I haven't heard a firm definition. But usually it can be told following this criteria:

    1. 3/4 (or 2/4 rarely) time [as you mentioned]
    2. Light, playful - not always (c.f. Bruckner)! [as you mentioned, too]
    3. Ironic, grotesque, jocund etc.
    4. The third movement of a normally arranged post-classical symphony
    5. Quick, prominent (allegro or something like that), and it's not the 1st nor the 4th
    movement of such a symphony
    6. By the title
    7. The form of a complex three-part song (aba cdc aba, or extended)

    That's what I think usually works.
    ''Oh, the String Quartet - oh, the Divine Scratching!''

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lisztfreak View Post
    4. The third movement of a normally arranged post-classical symphony.
    The third movement is the traditional position of the scherzo, as Beethoven substituted the "Scherzo" into the Menuet's traditional position. Later composers sometimes switch around the middle movements of the symphony, so that the scherzo is 2nd and the slow mvmt is 3rd, but you don't see that very often.

    Since we're starting to run up nice long lists, anyone else like the 3rd mvmt of Dvorak's 9th?

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    Senior Member opus67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kurkikohtaus View Post
    anyone else like the 3rd mvmt of Dvorak's 9th?
    Me does.
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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    The reason I asked was that that movement, along with the 3rd mvmts of the 7th and 8th are very Slavonic-Dance-Like in character, with their proportions and forms somewhat expanded so that they fit into symphonies. In my quest for variety and non-traditional programming in my orchestra's "Pops" series, I extracted that movement from the New World Symphony and put it on a program with Gershwin (Rhapsody) and Loewe (My Fair Lady), among other works.

    The musicians in the orchestra didn't take too kindly to the New World Symphony being sliced up, but the audience loved it.

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    Senior Member Lisztfreak's Avatar
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    Slavonic rules!
    ''Oh, the String Quartet - oh, the Divine Scratching!''

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    Senior Member ChamberNut's Avatar
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    I forgot to mention Dvorak's 7th Symphony, 3rd mvt. Scherzo, I love it!

    Well, that's one I forgot.....I'm sure there's more.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Dvořák's 7th Scherzo is a great example of such a movement that is not strictly in triple meter. It is in 6/4 (felt in 2 groups of 3 quarter notes), with a strong counter-melody/rhythm in 3/2.

    Interestingly, this co-existance of a duple compound meter and a triple simple meter, with neither one being "right" or definitive, is a characteristic of South American folk music (listen to the Argentinian group Inti Ilimani to hear this taken to an extreme). That said, there is nothing South American about these Dvorak movements, as this feeling in Czech music comes from the Slavic folk dance called the Furiant.

    Examples of Furiant in Czech classical music are Smetana's Furiant from 3 dances from the Bartered Bride, Dvorak's Slavonic Dances op. 46 nos. 1 and 8, and the schezo from Dvorak's 6th Symphony. The aforementioned scherzo from the 7th has a 3over2 feel, but is not a furiant.

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    Senior Member ChamberNut's Avatar
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    Would typical 3rd and final movement Rondos of Concertos qualify as scherzos?

    If so, then I have MANY more favorite orchestral scherzos.

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    3. Ironic, grotesque, jocund etc.
    The 2nd mov from Shostakovich's first violin concerto.

    and the 2nd mov in Prok's 5th symphony.

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    Senior Member Keemun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lisztfreak View Post
    Well, it's hard to say for sure - like you, Keemun, I haven't heard a firm definition. But usually it can be told following this criteria:

    1. 3/4 (or 2/4 rarely) time [as you mentioned]
    2. Light, playful - not always (c.f. Bruckner)! [as you mentioned, too]
    3. Ironic, grotesque, jocund etc.
    4. The third movement of a normally arranged post-classical symphony
    5. Quick, prominent (allegro or something like that), and it's not the 1st nor the 4th
    movement of such a symphony
    6. By the title
    7. The form of a complex three-part song (aba cdc aba, or extended)

    That's what I think usually works.
    Thanks for the help, Lisztfreak, now I can try to compile a list.

    Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.
    - Ludwig van Beethoven

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    Senior Member Keemun's Avatar
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    Here’s my list:

    Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, 2nd mvt.

    Beethoven: Symphony No. 6, 3rd mvt.

    Bruckner: Symphony No. 4, 3rd mvt.

    Bruckner: Symphony No. 7, 3rd mvt.

    Mahler: Symphony No. 2, 3rd mvt.

    Mahler: Symphony No. 5, 3rd mvt.

    Sibelius: Symphony No. 6, 3rd mvt.

    (Please let me know if any of these are not considered scherzos.)

    Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.
    - Ludwig van Beethoven

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