Definition and background:
An ornamental passage performed near the close of a composition, usually improvised, and usually performed by a soloist. Cadenzas are mostly to be found in arias or a concertos. Italian term for cadence.Also [Fr.] cadence; [Ger.] Kadenz or Schluss; [It.] cadenza; [Sp.] cadencia. a solo section, usually in a concerto or similar work, that is used to display the performer's technique, sometimes at considerable lengthan extended solo passage, usually near the end of a piece, improvised by the performer, or sometimes written out by the composer
In a concerto, a brilliant, unaccompanied solo section, once improvised by the player, now more often already composed. It enlarges on the themes set forth in the work and exhibits the player's technique.
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary