Steel City Strings features Australian composer Ross Edwards’ Arafura Dances – Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra in the last program of 2018...
10TH SEPTEMBER 2018
Edward Elgar Serenade for Strings in E Minor
The first piece to be featured in Steel City Strings’ Serenades and Dances program is Edward Elgar’s Serenade for Strings in E Minor.
Serenade for Strings in E Minor, Op 20
Composed in 1892, the Serenade for Strings is amongst the composer’s most popular works. It was certainly a piece that Elgar regarded with complete satisfaction.
Elgar, a violinist himself, wrote to a close friend that the work was ‘real stringy in effect’. And though a relatively brief composition, the Serenade displays his mastery of string writing.
Three movement structure
The three-movement structure is intricately bound by motivic and harmonic patterns. These, together with a return to the material of the opening bars of the Allegro at the end of the work, suggest Elgar conceived the Serenade as having a single musical contour.
The first movement is initiated by a nervous dotted-rhythm figure for violas. Above this a simple scalic melody rises and falls. Pastoral in style, some critics hear the tune as a fragment of an English ballad, others as a cradle song.
A second and no less expressive theme leads to a serene passage in the tonic major (E major). The opening material then returns, finally dispelling the anxious ostinato pattern. The first violins begin the slowly unfolding Larghetto with a solo melody that speaks of a deep longing. To which, the second violins respond with similar yearning. This is music of profound and heartfelt emotion, and provides a foretaste of the music Elgar would later write as slow movements in his symphonies.
The Allegretto movement is a brief affair. A lilting melody shared among the upper strings brings a gentle, even wistful, character to the music. Abbreviated recollections of themes from the opening movement bring the Serenade to a relaxed conclusion, the harmony now clothed in a delicate E major chord.
© David Vance, 2018