If you are an at all experienced flute player, you have probably played a few cadenzas in your life. Johann Quantz defines a “cadenza” as “that extempore embellishment created, according to the fancy and pleasure of the performer, by a concertante part at the close of a piece on the penultimate note of the bass, that is, the fifth key of the piece.” No problem, right?? Thankfully, nowadays there exist many excellent published cadenzas for most of the popular concertos and solos.
Interestingly enough, history has suggested that the trend of putting cadenzas to paper, rather than relying on musicians to improvise within certain constraints, began in the operatic setting, where less-than-favorable singers took a few too many liberties with their improvisation. Nowadays, the concept of a cadenza is generally rather simple: it stays in or close to the original key or the dominant, embellishes on common tunes and themes found throughout the piece, and is meant to give a bit of a finale to a piece, as it usually occurs in the last third. Players can generally have quite a bit of fun with embellishing notes, changing tempos several times, adding fermatas and other performance additions, and generally showcasing a bit of their own personality into the piece.
So where does one begin? Mozart’s Concerto in D Major is one of the most well-loved flute pieces in history, and there are several published versions of cadenzas. I personally love Rudolf Tillmetz’s version, which can be found here. It includes a nice mix of phrasing and fast, fun sections. As a reminder, the IFS does not sell sheet music or books, but J.W. Pepper, who is located just a mile north of us, carries many of these excerpts that can also be ordered online.