Work: Serenade for Strings in E major, Op. 22
About This Work
Much of Antonín Dvorák's most famous work, such as the Slavonic Dances, is music of a most unpretentious variety; yet this impression of musical innocence, perfectly charming and unsoiled by the occasionally overwrought struggles of
Romanticism, inevitably stirs something remarkable in listeners. This is certainly true of the Serenade in E major for string orchestra, Op. 22 (1875), which is greatly cherished by those who know it well. In a sometimes disappointing genre explored most often by journeyman composers still finding their creative way, it stands out as a near-faultlessly crafted five-movement gem.
The Serenade, Op. 22, usually lasts just under 30 minutes in performance. Unlike the normal symphony of the day, the first movement (Moderato) is the briefest of the lot. Its primary theme is a guileless inverted-arch melody that is made the subject of playful imitation; delicately pointed dotted rhythms fill the central, G major section. More than once, the C sharp minor Tempo di Valse second movement shows a better-than-passing resemblance to Chopin's C sharp minor Waltz, Op. 64/2, though Dvorák never veers far from his own Bohemian space; certainly a five-measure waltz-phrase like Dvorák's main idea is something Chopin would have reconsidered. The third movement, Scherzo, is a Vivace zinger; the Larghetto's main tune is a beautifully resigned. The rhythm and shape of the introductory measures of the finale to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony sneak into the start of the Serenade's finale (Allegro vivace). The themes of first the Larghetto and then the Moderato first movement make encore appearances as the finale unfolds.
-- Blair Johnston, All Music Guide
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