Saturday, 16 January 2010

Edward Elgar: Serenade for Strings – an appreciation by J.F. Porte

Edward Elgar’s Serenade for String is one of my favourite pieces of British music. I have loved this work since first hearing an old Decca Eclipse recording back in the early ‘seventies. J.F. Porte gives an attractive appreciation of this near perfect work.

OPUS 20. SERENADE, FOR STRING ORCHESTRA.
The music can be heard played in a good performance on YouTube at the links below. The piece is played by the RCO? and conductor is Vladimir Coverda
1. ALLEGRO PIACEVOLE.
2. ANDANTE (LARGHETTO).
3. ALLEGRETTO.

The lovely String Serenade holds its popularity to this day, despite many superior works of the same type by the composer.
Its chief charm lies in its unassuming loveliness; it has the bloom and innocence of youth, a pretty comparison with its more intricate and deeper followers. The composer made a happy return to the style of the early Serenade, in his lovely string quartet (Op. 83), especially in the ‘piacevole’ movement, which, like the slow one of the present work, is the gem of the piece.
The opening Allegro has a graceful mobility, which is contrasted by the middle portion. The movement, as a whole, shows a nice sense of phrasing and naturalness, although Elgar does not appear to seek for any special effect, and the simplicity remains unaffected by a clever use of his slight material.
The slow movement contains, in the main melody, some of the most beautiful and expressive music the composer has ever written. The appeal is deep and human, and we may believe that we have seen, as often happens in the early works of great composers, a glimpse of the hidden genius, preparing for its inevitable full appearance.

The final movement is in a time afterwards much favoured by the composer the swinging rhythm of 12-8. The sentiment is not so fine as in the preceding movements, but is pleasant, and maintains the unassuming character of the whole.
We have spoken highly of the String Serenade, but it is fully deserving of the praise bestowed upon it, and it is to be regretted that so striking and original an effort is so seldom played, except by Landon Ronald, and a number of amateur string bands.

From Sir Edward Elgar by J.F. Porte Kegan Paul Trench Trubner & Co. London 1921 pp36

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