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Serenade for Strings, Op. 48 in C Major 

 I. Pezzo in forma di Sonatina (Piece in the form of a sonatina)

Piotr Illych Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)




In 1880, Piotr Illych Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) was busy writing his 1812 Overture (Op. 49) and his Serenade for Strings (Op. 48) simultaneously. Though the 1812 has been passed down to us as one of his best-loved works, the composer surprisingly preferred the Serenade, as he noted in a letter to a benefactor: “The overture will be very noisy. I wrote it with little feeling of love; therefore it has no great artistic value. The Serenade, on the contrary, I wrote from inner compulsion; it is a work from the heart….” 

The Serenade was originally conceived by Tchaikovsky as a symphony, and then briefly as a string quintet; he eventually settled on a serenade for string orchestra, noting on the finished score “the larger the string orchestra, the better the composer’s wishes will be met.” The neo-classical first movement of the Serenade, the “Pezzo in forma di Sonatina” (a “little sonata”) is a tribute to Mozart, a composer that Tchaikovsky admired and emulated. The movement is built on two themes—a short, declarative, but affecting four-note motive on one hand, and delightfully energetic, Mozartian scales and falling figures on the other. These themes are framed at the movement’s start and finish by exquisite chorale-style voice-leading on a falling tetrachord—the most recognizable and gratifying component of this work.

Program notes by:
Dr. Jessica Getman

Assistant Professor of Musicology/Ethnomusicology
California State University, San Bernardino

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