Tchaikovsky: Serenade

Tchaikovsky. Even those unfamiliar with “classical” music know that name. His music for The Nutcracker may be some of the best known and best loved music ever written. His ballets Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty are cornerstones of the dance repertoire, while the 1812 Overture (which features, among other instruments, a battery of cannon!) has accompanied countless fireworks displays around the world for years. Composed at the same time as the 1812 Overture, his Serenade is arguably the most popular of all works for string orchestra. The NSS will present the Serenade in our first “informance”, scheduled for November.


Frank Bridge
Two Old English Songs, H.119 (1916)
Adrienne Albert
Boundaries (0)
Karl Jenkins
Palladio (1995)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Serenade for Strings, Op. 48 (1880)

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Concert Notes

Tchaikovsky's Serenade was an immediate popular success, and remained one of his personal favorites. He described the opening movement (Pezzo in forma di sonatina) as “ homage to Mozart; it is intended to be an imitation of his style. ”, The opening passage is reminiscent of the slow introductions to a few of Mozart's symphonies, but the middle section of the work is set in one of the lightest of Classical forms, the sonatina - a sonata form with very little in the way of development. The Waltz (Moderato) is lilting and graceful, spinning out two lovely themes, and occasionally slowing to hold the highest note in a phrase for moment before continuing its forward motion. The Elegy (Largo elegiaco) is also in a very simple form. The beginning is an emotional passage which gives way to a more agitated section (Poco più animato). The opening music returns at the end and is expanded in a brief coda. The Finale (Tema Russo) is the most nationalistic of the Serenade's movements. For the opening passage (Andante), Tchaikovsky borrows a folk tune from the Volga region, passing it from the upper strings to the lower. The main theme of the movement, marked Allegro con spirito, is a popular dance tune from Moscow, and it is contrasted with a more songlike melody of distinctively Russian character. Tchaikovsky skillfully weaves these themes together until the very end, when he brings back the very opening music of the first movement. After this reminiscence, the tempo quickens gradually for a lively coda.

English composer Frank Bridge composed his two Old English Songs in 1916. The title and melody for “Sally in Our Alley”, is taken from a traditional English folksong “The Country Lass”, by Henry Carey. “Cherry Ripe”, is based on a folksong of the same title by C.E. Horn. These charming pieces and others like them have been responsible for a revival of interest in the works of Bridge in the latter part of the 20th century. Originally written for string quintet, Adrienne Albert's Boundaries for String Orchestra was revised in 2004 and 2005 and performed several times at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts and in the 2005 Orchestral Festival, Landisville, PA. under the direction of Dr. Michael T. Jamanis. This strong, bold, tonal work was born out of a boundary dispute the composer was having with a neighbor. Karl Jenkins wrote Palladio for string orchestra in 1995 as an homage to the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580). The work in three movements is in the form of a concerto grosso. Listeners may recognize the first movement as the music used for the “Shadows: A Diamond is Forever”, series of television commercials for De Beers in the mid-1990s.

NSS concerts typically last around two hours, including a 15-minute intermission.