Cadenza Pedal

Cadenza-pedal is in a non-sounding dominant pedal that accompanies a virtuosic, ornamental passage, played or sung by the soloist. This passage can be rather long, and is performed solo, thus the sound of the last orchestral chord could be lost, even from the memory of the listener. The musical function of a cadenza has nothing to do with harmonic tensions inherent to harmonic pedals. Nevertheless, the harmonic framing of a cadenza has a lot in common with dominant pedals at ends of sections. Cadenza is often placed near the end of a movement, in the middle of the final cadence. In a classical concerto, the whole cadenza would often be played between the cadential V6/4 and its resolution into V (followed by the final, tonic chord, and a closing section/coda played by the orchestra).


Cadenza thus delays the resolution of the cadential 6/4 chord, and thereby enormously expands the cadence. The listener knows that the resolution will sound at the end of the cadenza. In some cases, a short cadenza can be quite comparable to an implied dominant pedal, in that it incites denial-tension and expectation-tension, and transforms them into the excitement about the resolution of all the conflicts. In other cases, the rather improvisatory character of the solo can unfold in any direction, can modulate and become distanced from the last orchestral chord. Still, there is expectation, even if not directed to one particular chord/pitch: the orchestra has to return.

Why? Because it has suddenly stopped, before the phrase was closed. The interpolation of the cadenza has suspended the movement of the orchestra. The V6/4 chord, is implicative; the listener experiences the expectation-tension related to its resolution. The resolution is denied; the orchestra stops playing. As long as the cadenza stays harmonically related to the last chord, and as long as its melodic material could be brought in relation with the harmonic resolution, there is expectation-tension. When this is not any more the case, knowing the concept cadenza makes the listener active in trying to discover when the soloist’s exposition will re-direct toward the abandoned cadence. Whenever the music makes this anticipation possible, the expectation-tension is awake, and the dominant pedal is revived. In Mozart’s concerto kv.595/I, the cadenza consists of a number of sections, all left unclosed, until the final section that returns to the C before the fermata (now an octave up), where the orchestra re-joins in the closing tutti.


The aspect that promotes cadenza-pedal into an independent model is exactly the fact that the sound is terminated. While with implied harmonic pedals we say that they may not sound but the effect is the same as if they were sounding, cadenza-pedals become pedals exactly because they have stopped sounding. The effect of the sudden textural change, and the sudden change of focus (not on the phrase that is deprived of ending, but on the new phrase that is an interpolation) overweighs the effect of the evaded cadence. Recognizing that something is a cadenza directs the listener in a short time away from the previous phrase, which neutralizes the expectation-tension. This is in a way also desired, because the soloist’s virtues should be admired. The surprise-tension makes the listener attentive.  

Sudden silence in the textural layer is a common ‘ingredient’ of jazz music, in the solo sections. In some cases there is a certain similarity with the cadenza model outlined above. When the instruments that create the foundation of the sound, the bass and the drums, suddenly stop playing, there is an expectation-tension related to their return, which will feel as a kind of ‘resolution’. While not being a pedal-process, this situation creates a sort of pedal-effect - which will be discussed in the last Pedal Story, ‘Epilogue: ‘pedal-effect’’.




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Mozart, Piano Concerto in Bb, kv.595, first movement