česky | English

serenade for strings 

opus number
22 
Burghauser catalogue number
52 
composed
3 May - 14 May 1875 (revision 1878) 
premiere - date and place
10 December 1876, Praha 
premiere - performer(s)
"Filharmonia" Orchestra, conductor Adolf Cech 
main key E major
instrumentation violins, violas, cellos, double basses
parts / movements
1. Moderato
2. Menuetto. Allegro con moto
3. Scherzo
4. Larghetto
5. Finale. Allegro vivace 
duration
approx. 27 min. 

 


composition history and general characteristics

The Serenade for Strings in E major was completed within a fortnight in the spring of 1875. Its atmosphere reflects an auspicious time in the composer’s life: Dvorak was enjoying his first successes on the concert platform, and he had also succeeded in acquiring a state scholarship for the first time. The work is a document of the composer’s exceptional sense of small forms. In five short movements, clearly constructed around a three-part song form, he exposes solid thematic material with the aid of rich imagery. The music of the Serenade flows easily and naturally with a sense of immediacy, its character idyllic and peaceable. A typical trait of the composition is its frequent imitation of themes in various voices; Dvorak reinforces the cyclical nature of the form by quoting the main theme of the first movement before the coda of the final movement. The Serenade in E major is one of the composer’s most popular and most frequently performed works.


premiere, subsequent performances and publication

Back in the summer of 1875 viola player in the Vienna Philharmonic Alois Alexander Buchta attempted to include the Serenade in the programme of one of the orchestra’s concerts, but to no avail. Dvorak was still unfamiliar in Vienna at that time. The premiere of the work, held on 10 December 1876 at Prague’s Zofin, was such a success that the Serenade was immediately put forward again for the programme of the following Slavonic Concert, as it was known. Soon afterwards it was presented in Brno on 22 April 1877 by Leos Janacek. That same year, on the initiative of music critic Vaclav Vladimir Zeleny, a group of Dvorak’s friends got together to raise money for the publication of the piano score of the Serenade with Prague publisher Emanuel Stary. The full score and parts were published in 1879 by Berlin publisher Bote & Bock. Dvorak thought very highly of the Serenade and so, in 1877, he enclosed it with his fourth application for a state scholarship. He conducted the work himself four times: for the first time in August 1877 in Lipnik nad Becvou (the first documented instance of the composer as conductor), then in Chrudim on 24 April 1879, and subsequently in Prague on 17 April 1887 and 13 October 1894.