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Edward Elgar
Serenade in E Minor for String Orchestra, Op. 20

Serenade in E Minor for String Orchestra, Op. 20
Edward Elgar (1875-1912)


Along with the concert overture Froissart (1892), Elgar’s Serenade for String Orchestra constitutes his most significant work prior to the enormously popular Enigma Variations in 1899. Serenades trace their roots back to the Classical era, among which Mozart’s contributions remained chief in the 18th century. Nearly a century later, Elgar joined several other Romantic composers in reviving these light orchestra pieces, beginning most notably with Brahms in the late 1850s, followed by Dvořák and Tchaikovsky.

Elgar noted in the Serenade’s 1892 manuscript that his new wife Alice “helped a great deal to make these little tunes.” While the String Serenade may owe its origins to Elgar’s wife, posterity has also to thank the Worcester Ladies’ Orchestral Class. As its conductor during the Serenade’s inception, he was able to experiment with his newest work with this helpful band of women. They would also go on to premiere the piece in a private performance later that same year. The Serenade was not to be heard in public until a performance four years later in Antwerp, Belgium; and not in Britain until three years after that in 1899.


  • The recurring, staccato rhythmic figure that weaves together the Allegro piacevole
  • Beautiful, wide leaps in the melody of the charming Larghetto coupled with delicate turn figures
  • The return of the first movement midway through the final Allegretto, now unfolding gracefully towards the final cadence