Serenade for String Orchestra
(Серенада для струнного оркестра)
Op. 48 (1880).
"No sooner had I begun to spend a number of days relaxing, than I began to feel somewhat restless and rather unwell... Today I could not bear it, and endure it no longer, and I busied myself a little with designs for a future symphony—perhaps? I immediately began to feel cheerful, well and relaxed ... This effect proved not to diminish itself with time, and I satisfied my intrinsic need to work—especially composition. Now here I am already with designs for a symphony or string quartet; I do not yet know which", Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck on 9/21 September 1880 . He also wrote to Anatoly Tchaikovsky on 21 September/3 October 1880 that he had: "started to write something" . By 25 September/7 October three movements of the new work were ready .
In a letter to Nadezhda von Meck of 25 September/7 October, Tchaikovsky described his new work as a suite for string orchestra. On 6/18 October in a letter to Anatoly Tchaikovsky he reported: "I’ve done quite a lot recently. I’ve already written the overture for the exhibition , and also written and should finish off a serenade for string instruments" . "I am now gradually orchestrating it", we read in a letter to Nadezhda von Meck of 8/20–10/22 October 1880, and later: "The Serenade... I composed from an innate impulse; that is something which arises from having freedom to think, and is not devoid of true worth" .
In the work's finale, Tchaikovsky included the melodies of two Russian folk songs: "On the Green Meadow" [«А как по лугу»] and Under the Green Apple Tree [«Под яблонью»]. The songs together with their accompaniment were taken by the composer from his collection of Fifty Russian Folk-Songs (taken from Mily Balakirev’s collection).
By 14/26 October the Serenade was ready, and Tchaikovsky set to work on its arrangement for piano duet , which was completed on 23 October/4 November 1880 (according to the author’s date on the manuscript). Despatching the score and piano duet arrangement to Pyotr Jurgenson to be published, Tchaikovsky wrote: "I happened to write a Serenade for string orchestra in four movements, and am sending it to you the day after tomorrow in the form of a full score and four-hand arrangement ... I love this Serenade terribly, and fervently hope that it might soon see the light of day" . On the second page of the score, Tchaikovsky noted: "The larger number of players in the string orchestra, the more this shall be in accordance with the author's wishes".
The Serenade was performed for the first time on 21 November/3 December 1880 at a private concert in the Moscow Conservatory by a force of professors and students, as a surprise for Tchaikovsky, who was visiting after long absence from the Conservatory .
Sergey Taneyev assisted Tchaikovsky in correcting the score for publication . In January 1881 the full score and parts of the Serenade were printed and issued by Pyotr Jurgenson. In April the same year the composer's arrangement for piano duet was published.
On 17/29 June 1881, Tchaikovsky wrote to Eduard Nápravník, asking if the Serenade might be included in one of the future concerts . In his reply of 27 June/9 July that year, Nápravník agreed to perform the Serenade in one of the forthcoming concerts .
The first public performance of the Serenade for Strings took place in Saint Petersburg on 18/30 October 1881, at the third symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Eduard Nápravník. In Moscow it was performed for the first time on 16/28 January 1882 at the seventh concert of the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Max Erdmannsdörfer.
The Serenade for String Orchestra is dedicated to Karl Albrecht.
Музыкальное наследие Чайковского (1958), pp. 293–294
This page was last updated on 16 February 2013