The minuet (Fr. menuet, It. menuetto, De. Menuett) is a dance of French origin that was popularised in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is in a stately 3/4 metre and is characterised by relatively slow and graceful movements. Like most other dances of the time, it is danced in what is called "open position", meaning that the couples do not hold each other face-to-face. Though it was very common in the Western world, it evolved into one of the most important dances in high society and royal and noble courts, becoming very elaborate in such settings. The minuet lost popularity around the 1820s, becoming replaced by the waltz and other dances; however, it still exists as a folk dance in some places.
In concert music
Minuet music is not only used for dance. Beginning on the second half of the 18th century, the minuet started to be used as a movement in symphonies. The tempo used in such context became livelier, and the musical form expanded from binary to ternary form. However, by c. 1800, composers such as Beethoven replaced the minuet with a faster movement (Scherzo).
The basic structure of a minuet is binary form and, after the advent of sonata-allegro form, ternary form. The formal sections of both forms were often repeated to add length to the dance. In the baroque era, these repeats were often embellished either by the composer or by the performers. This practice did not last past the classical period of Western music.
The middle segment, the B section, is called a trio and usually contrasts sharply with the first and third sections.
- "Minuet" - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, from Don Giovanni
- "Minuet and Trio in Eb" - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- "Minuet in A" - Luigi Boccherini, from String Quintet no. 11