Edward Elgar Serenade for Strings in E Minor

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​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

Allegro piacevole

Edward Elgar

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.

First movement

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.

Second movement

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.

Third movement

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



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The members of Steel City Strings are outstanding examples of hard work, enterprise, enthusiasm and dedication. They reach for the stars and beyond. More power to these wonderful people.

Richard Gill AO

In Debussy's Sacred and Profane Dances of 1904 the orchestra was joined by harpist Paulina Smirnov whose scintillating playing created a wonderful and subtly-nuanced centrepiece for the concert.


A fascinating program of works from various musical periods... The orchestra played with a strong sense of ensemble, and brought an infectious verve to the Mozart.



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