Serenade for String Orchestra

Tchaikovsky Research
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Tchaikovsky's Serenade for String Orchestra in C major, Op. 48 (TH 48 ; ČW 45) was written and orchestrated in September and October 1880.


The Serenade is scored for violins I, violins II, violas, cellos, and double basses. In the score Tchaikovsky noted: "The larger number of players in the string orchestra, the more this shall be in accordance with the author's wishes".

Movements and Duration

There are four movements:

  1. Pezzo in forma di sonatina. Andante non troppo—Allegro moderato (C major, 295 bars)
  2. Valse. Moderato. Tempo di Valse (G major, 223 bars)
  3. Elegia. Larghetto elegiaco (D major, 162 bars)
  4. Finale (Tema russo). Andante—Allegro con spirito (C major, 406 bars)

A complete performance lasts approximately 30 minutes.


"No sooner had I begun to spend a number of days in complete idleness, than I began to experience some sort of indefinable melancholy, and even illness, i.e. I stopped sleeping well and felt tired and weak. Today I could endure it no longer, and I busied myself a little with designs for a future symphony. And what do you know? I immediately found myself feeling well, invigorated and content ... Therefore it turns out that there is no better way to occupy one's time and to satisfy one's intrinsic need for work besides compising. Now here I am already with designs for a symphony or string quartet; I still don't know how it will end up", Tchaikovsky told Nadezhda von Meck on 9/21 September 1880 [1]. He also wrote to Anatoly Tchaikovsky on 21 September/3 October 1880 that he had: "started to write something" [2]. By 25 September/7 October, three movements of the new work were ready [3].

In a letter to Nadezhda von Meck of 25 September/7 October, Tchaikovsky described his new work as a suite for string orchestra. On 6/18 October in a letter to Anatoly Tchaikovsky he reported: "I've done quite a lot recently. I've already written the overture for the exhibition [4], and also written and should soon finish off a Serenade for string instruments" [5]. In a letter to Nadezhda von Meck of 8/20–10/22 October 1880 he reported that he was steadily working on the instrumentation: "The Serenade... I composed from an innate impulse; it is something I felt deep within myself, and therefore, I dare to think, is not devoid of true merit" [6].

By 14/26 October the Serenade was ready, and Tchaikovsky set to work on its arrangement for piano duet [7], which according to the date on the manuscript was completed on 23 October/4 November 1880. Despatching the score and piano duet arrangement to Pyotr Jurgenson to be published, Tchaikovsky wrote: " I've accidentally written a Serenade for String Orchestra in 4 movements, and I'm sending it to you the day after tomorrow in the form of a score and 4-handed arrangement... Whether because this is my latest offspring, or because it actually isn't too bad, I just love this serenade terribly, and I'm dying for it to see the light of day as soon as possible. This is a very convenient form, as only 5 voices are required. I even dreamed about going to Leipzig and commissioning it to be engraved as soon as possible, so that it could even be ready by the end of the present season, and then give the plates to you. If it could be played this season, and especially at the charity concert, where the orchestra is doubled, I should want that very much." [8].


As noted above, Tchaikovsky's arrangement of the Serenade for piano duet (4 hands) was made between 14/26 October and 23 October/4 November 1880.


The Serenade was performed for the first time on 21 November/3 December 1880 at a private concert in the Moscow Conservatory by a force of professors and students, as a surprise for Tchaikovsky, who was visiting after long absence from the Conservatory [9].

On 17/29 June 1881, Tchaikovsky wrote to Eduard Nápravník, asking if the Serenade might be included in one of the future concerts [10]. In his reply of 27 June/9 July that year, Nápravník agreed to perform the Serenade in one of the forthcoming concerts [11].

The first public performance of the Serenade for String Orchestra took place in Saint Petersburg on 18/30 October 1881, at the third symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Eduard Nápravník. In Moscow it was performed for the first time on 16/28 January 1882 at the seventh concert of the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Max Erdmannsdörfer.

Other notable early performances include:

  • Tiflis, 2nd Russian Musical Society symphony concert, 27 March/8 April 1884, conducted by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov
  • New York, Academy of Music, Symphony Society concert, 12/24 January 1885, conducted by Leopold Damrosch
  • Saint Petersburg, Philharmonic Society concert, 5/17 March 1887, conducted by Tchaikovsky (2nd and 3rd movements only)
  • Hamburg, 6th Philharmonic Society concert, 8/20 January 1888, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Prague, National Theatre, 9/21 February 1888, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Paris, Colonne Orchestra concert, 16/28 February 1888, conducted by Tchaikovsky (2nd and 3rd movements only)
  • Paris, 16th Châtelet concert, 21 February/4 March 1888, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Paris, 17th Châtelet concert, 28 February/11 March 1888, conducted by Tchaikovsky (2nd and 3rd movements only)
  • London, Saint James's Hall, 2nd Philharmonic Society concert, 10/22 March 1888, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Berlin, Philharmonic Society concert, 14/26 February 1889, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Geneva, New Theatre, 25 February/9 March 1889, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Kiev, 1st Russian Musical Society symphony concert, 21 October/2 November 1889, conducted by Aleksandr Vinogradsky
  • Amsterdam, Concertgebouw, matinée concert, 15/27 April 1890, conducted by Willem Kes (2nd movement only)
  • Tiflis, special Russian Musical Society symphony concert, 20 October/1 November 1890, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Vienna, 8th Philharmonic Society subscription concert, 24 March/5 April 1891, conducted by Hans Richter
  • Baltimore, Lyceum Theatre, 3/15 May 1891, Boston Festival Orchestra, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Philadelphia, Academy of Music, 6/18 May 1891, Boston Festival Orchestra, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Warsaw, 2/14 January 1892, conducted by Tchaikovsky (2nd and 3rd movements only)
  • Brussels, 2/14 January 1893, conducted by Tchaikovsky (2nd and 3rd movements only)
  • Odessa, Slavonic Society free concert, 22 January/3 February 1893, conducted by Tchaikovsky (2nd movement only)
  • Kharkov, 2nd Russian Musical Society symphony concert, 14/26 November 1893, conducted by Ilya Slatin (2nd movement only)


Sergey Taneyev assisted Tchaikovsky in correcting the score for publication [12]. In January 1881, the full score and parts of the Serenade were printed and issued by Pyotr Jurgenson, and the following April the composer's arrangement for piano duet was published.

The full score of the Serenade was published in volume 20 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works (1946), edited by Ivan Shishov, and Tchaikovsky's arrangement for piano duet in volume 50Б (1965), edited by Irina Iordan.


Tchaikovsky's manuscript score (ф. 88, No. 82) [view] and arrangement for piano duet (ф. 88, No. 83) [view] are preserved in the Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow.


See: Discography


The Serenade for String Orchestra is dedicated to Karl Albrecht (1836–1893), cellist and inspector at the Moscow Conservatory.

Related Works

In the Serenade's finale, the opening Andante section includes the folksong 'On the Green Meadow' (А как по лугу), and the main theme of the ensuing Allegro is the folksong 'Under the Green Apple Tree' (Под яблонью зеленою). These tunes had previously been arranged by Tchaikovsky as Nos. 28 and 42 respectively of Fifty Russian Folksongs (1868-69).

External Links

Notes and References

  1. Letter 1585 to Nadezhda von Meck, 9/21–12/24 September 1880.
  2. Letter 1599 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 21 September/3 October 1880.
  3. See Letter 1601 to Nadezhda von Meck, 21 September/3 October–25 September/7 October 1880.
  4. i.e. The Year 1812.
  5. Letter 1608 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 6/18 October 1880.
  6. Letter 1609 to Nadezhda von Meck, 8/20–10/22 October 1880.
  7. See Letter 1613 to Nadezhda von Meck, 14/26–16/28 October 1880.
  8. Letter 1619 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 27 October/8 November 1880.
  9. See Letter 1632 to Nadezhda von Meck, 27 November/9 December 1880.
  10. Letter 1786 to Eduard Nápravník, 17/29 June 1881.
  11. Letter from Eduard Nápravník to Tchaikovsky, 27 June/9 July 1881 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  12. See letter from Sergey Taneyev to Tchaikovsky, 1/13 March 1881 — Klin House-Museum Archive (a4, No. 4367).