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Lennox Berkeley

Publisher: Chester Music

Serenade for Strings (1939),
Publisher
Chester Music Ltd
Category
Orchestra
Sub Category
String Orchestra
Year Composed
1939
Duration
14 Minutes
Orchestration


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Programme Note
Lennox Berkeley Serenade for Strings (1939),
Of the many works Berkeley has written for orchestra two stand out as being particularly popular: Divertimento and Serenade for Strings which was composed between September and November 1939 and perfectly demonstrates Berkeley’s love and understanding for string writing.

The Serenade is in four movements, the first being a light-hearted ‘Vivace’ with a strikingly felicitous tune for its first subject. The orchestra play around this idea with long chromatic runs, always leading up to a restatement of the theme, until the end of the movement where the first half of the phrase becomes a coda for a rather cheeky cadence.

The ‘Andantino’ is a much more graceful affair with a plaintive melody that starts on the violins, is then taken into the bass and is finally given a more vehement treatment before being returned to its original protagonists where it dies away to a natural conclusion.

The ‘Scherzo’ is the most boisterous and thematically various movement of the four. A darting motif based on repeated notes gives way to a rousing angular theme which is soon swallowed up to allow the celli their insistent message. This is followed by and extraordinary ‘col legno’ section (the top half of the orchestra using the wood of their bows and the bottom half with a pizzicato figure). Suddenly, as though the air has been cleared, the violins begin a charming, dipping melody that the violas soon get their hands on and, after this has been discussed, the movement is rounded off by a return to the chattering opening.

The ‘Lento’ that ends the work is the most rewarding movement from the point of view of emotional depth (it has been suggested that its moving pathos was inspired by the onset of World War II but if this is so, the composer feels it must have happened subconsciously). The chorale-like tune is sounded straight away and its development leads to a powerful climax with the basses and celli rising step after laborious step to a high A, having travelled over two octaves to get there. As the movement mournfully fades away the violins can be heard slowly reminiscing over their gay little melody that opened the work, but now it is lacking in any joy and sounds more like a quietly receding ghost.


Preview the score:

  • Ensemble
    Academy of St Martin in the Fields
    Conductor
    Kenneth Sillito
    Collins Classics:
  • Ensemble
    English String Orchestra
    Conductor
    William Boughton
    Nimbus:
  • Ensemble
    BBC National Orchestra of Wales
    Conductor
    Richard Hickox
    Chandos:
  • G. Schirmer / AMP:
Performances
Date
Title
  • 23 AUG 2013
    Presteigne Festival 2013
    St Andrew's Church, Presteigne, UK
    Presteigne Festival Orchestra
    George Vass, conductor

    Other Dates:
    27 August -
  • 10 AUG 2013
    BBC Proms 2013
    Cadogan Hall, London
    Camerata Ireland
    Barry Douglas, conductor

    Other Dates:
    11 August - St Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny
  • 11 JUN 2013
    St Stephen's Church, London
    Handel Collection
    Edward Adams, conductor
  • 21 MAY 2011
    Eastgate Theatre, Peebles
    Peebles Orchestra
  • 07 MAY 2011
    Parish Church, Olney, Buckinghamshire
    Bedford Sinfonia

    Other Dates:
    8 May - St Andrew’s Church, Ampthill, Bedfordshire
  • 07 MAY 2011
    Bushey Academy, Hertfordshire
    Bushey Symphony Orchestra
    George Vass, conductor
  • 12 APR 2011
    Singapore
    Nangyang Girls School
  • 17 NOV 2010
    Duke's Hall, Royal Academy of Music, London
    Academy String Orchestra
    Jo Cole, conductor
  • 30 SEP 2010
    Chelsea Old Church, London
    Orchestra of St John's
  • 15 NOV 2009
    Haverhill Arts Centre, Haverhill, UK
    Haverhill Sinfonia
  • 22 MAY 2009
    Dorchester Abbey, Dorchester
    Southbank Sinfonia String Ensemble
  • 02 MAY 2009
    Wiltshire
    Sarum Orchestra / Wiltshire Youth Strings
  • 31 JAN 2009
    Holy Trinity Church, Prince Consort Road, London SW7
    4strings
    David Smith, conductor
  • 30 NOV 2008
    Wroclaw, Poland
    Leopoldinum Chamber Orchestra
  • 20 OCT 2008
    Oran Mor, Glasgow, Scotland
    National Youth Orchestra of Scotland
  • 11 JUL 2008
    Besancon, Germany
    Jugendorchester der Holst-Sinfonietta
    Klaus Simon, conductor

    Other Dates:
    12 July - Freiburg, Germany
    13 July - Kirchzarten, Germany
  • 11 MAY 2008
    St. John's, Smith Square, London
    Alleyn's School Orchestra
  • 21 APR 2008
    Budapest, Hungary
    Weiner Szasz Chamber Symphony Orchestra
  • 14 NOV 2007
    Royal Holloway College, Egham, Surrey
    Royal Holloway Chorus and String Ensemble
    Rupert Gough, conductor
  • 27 OCT 2007
    Utrecht, Holland
    HKU Faculteit Muziek

    Other Dates:
    28 October - Utrecht, Holland
  • 21 JUL 2007
    Buxton Festival
    St John's Church, Buxton, UK
    Amaretti Chamber Orchestra
  • 16 JUN 2007
    Chelsea Festival
    St. Luke's Church, London
    Southbank Sinfonia
    Michael Berman, conductor
  • 16 JUN 2007
    Chelsea Festival
    St. Luke's Church, Chelsea, London
    Southbank Sinfonia String Ensemble
    Michael Berman, conductor
  • 07 APR 2007
    Toulon, France
    Opera de Toulon
  • 16 MAR 2007
    RGS Newcastle
    Tyneside Chamber Orchestra
  • 23 FEB 2007
    Knight Templar School, Baldock, Hertfordshire
    City of London Sinfonia
    Nicholas Ward, conductor
  • 26 JUL 2006
    Vox Musica
  • 21 APR 2006
    Rock Church, Helsinki, Finland
    Vox Musica

    Other Dates:
    22 April - The Church of Jarvenpaa, Helsinki, Finland
  • 11 APR 2005
    Teatro Kennedy, Fasano
    Virtuosi di Praga
    Alfonso Scarano, conductor
  • 19 MAR 2005
    Shire Hall, Hereford
    Hereford String Orchestra
    Nic Fallowfield, conductor

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