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Serenade for Strings in E major, op. 22

Antonín Dvořák
1875
Length: 30'
I. Moderato
II. Tempo di Valse
III. Scherzo. Vivace
IV. Larghetto
V. Finale. Allegro vivace

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: Dvořák 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; Dvořák 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.

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.

Dvořák himself 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 six times: Lipnik nad Becvou, then in Prague, in Chrudim, in Mlada Boleslav and subsequently once again in Prague.

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