Concertgebouw Kamerorkest (Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra) performs Edward Elgar’s Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20, a piece for string orchestra in three short movements. This performance was recorded during the AVROTROS Friday concert on October 28, 2016, at the TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht.

Concertgebouw Kamerorkest (Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra) performs Edward Elgar’s Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20, a piece for string orchestra in three short movements. This performance was recorded during the AVROTROS Friday concert on October 28, 2016, at the TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht.

Edward Elgar’s Serenade for Strings

Edward Elgar’s Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20, is a notable work in the classical music repertoire, showcasing the composer’s adeptness at string orchestration and his distinctive lyrical style. Composed in 1892, this piece marks one of Elgar’s early successes and reflects a maturity in his compositional technique that would later blossom in his more famous works like the “Enigma Variations” and the “Pomp and Circumstance Marches.”

The Serenade for Strings is often celebrated for its warmth and depth of emotion, qualities that hint at Elgar’s romantic inclinations and his deep reverence for the string ensemble. Its composition coincided with a period in Elgar’s life when he was settling into his career as a composer and beginning to establish his signature style. The serenade, with its refined yet accessible musical language, helped to solidify his reputation among his contemporaries and the public.

One of the work’s defining characteristics is its eloquent expression and the interplay of melodic lines among the string sections. Elgar’s skill in varying textures and dynamics is evident throughout the piece, creating a rich tapestry of sound that ranges from delicate and introspective to more robust and spirited passages. This manipulation of musical elements allows the Serenade to convey a range of emotions, from serene contemplation to joyful exuberance, making it a favorite among both performers and audiences.

The reception of the Serenade for Strings was quite positive, contributing significantly to Elgar’s growing recognition as a composer of importance in Britain. Its lasting appeal can be attributed to its lyrical beauty and the refined craftsmanship Elgar employed. Today, it remains a staple in the string orchestra repertoire, frequently performed by both amateur and professional ensembles around the world and admired for its graceful charm and emotional depth.


There are three movements. With the start times in the video:

  1. [0:07] Allegro piacevole
  2. [3:34] Larghetto
  3. [8:40] Allegretto

1. Allegro piacevole

The first movement of Edward Elgar’s Serenade for Strings, titled “Allegro piacevole,” sets the tone for the entire piece with its gentle, flowing melodies and understated charm. This movement opens with a light and lyrical theme that is both engaging and soothing. Elgar employs a conversational style among the string sections, allowing themes to be passed back and forth, creating a sense of dialogue and interplay that is central to the movement’s appeal.

Musically, the “Allegro piacevole” is characterized by its rhythmic vitality and melodic grace. The movement utilizes a modest range of dynamics, focusing instead on the textural richness that can be achieved within a string ensemble. The orchestration is delicate yet sophisticated, showcasing Elgar’s skill in crafting music that is accessible yet rich with detail.

Elgar’s choice of “piacevole,” meaning “pleasant,” as a descriptor for the tempo and mood of this movement is apt. There’s a buoyancy and optimism in the music that suggests a contentedness or peaceful state of mind. The rhythmic patterns are straightforward yet effective, providing a steady pulse that carries the melodic lines with clarity and purpose.

2. Larghetto

The second movement of Edward Elgar’s Serenade for Strings, titled “Larghetto,” is the emotional heart of the composition and stands in contrast to the lighter, more buoyant first movement. This movement is noted for its poignant and contemplative quality, showcasing Elgar’s ability to create deep emotional landscapes with minimal instrumentation.

In “Larghetto,” Elgar adopts a slower, more expansive tempo that allows for a fuller exploration of melodic and harmonic richness. The movement opens with a tender and expressive melody that is both introspective and laden with a sense of longing or melancholy. The strings play with a lush, sustained tone, creating a texture that is velvety and resonant.

The orchestration is careful and precise, with Elgar using the dynamic range of the string ensemble to evoke a profound sense of intimacy and vulnerability. The interplay of parts is less about conversation, as in the first movement, and more about a collective expression of a shared emotional experience. The harmonies are rich and complex, adding layers of depth to the melody which unfolds slowly, drawing the listener into its introspective journey.

Throughout the “Larghetto,” there is a remarkable balance between the individual voices within the ensemble, with each line contributing to a cohesive whole. The movement progresses with a graceful inevitability, building to moments of greater intensity before returning to a more subdued and reflective state.

3. Allegretto

The third and final movement of Edward Elgar’s Serenade for Strings, titled “Allegretto,” brings the composition to a lively and spirited conclusion. This movement is marked by its playful character and rhythmic vitality, providing a joyful contrast to the introspective and somber second movement.

“Allegretto” is characterized by its light, dance-like quality. Elgar introduces a series of playful motifs that are passed around among the different sections of the string ensemble. This interplay creates a dynamic and engaging texture, as themes are developed and transformed across the movement. The pace is brisk, with rhythmic patterns that give the music a bouncing, almost frolicsome quality.

Elgar employs pizzicato techniques at various points, adding a percussive element that enhances the overall sprightliness of the music. The harmonies are straightforward but effective, supporting the melodic lines with clarity and enhancing the overall sense of movement and energy.

The structure of the movement is tightly knit, with Elgar weaving the themes together in a way that feels both spontaneous and meticulously planned. The music builds toward a climactic section where the full ensemble comes together, driving the themes forward with increased intensity and passion before easing into a gracefully resolved ending.


M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

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