Assignment 3 – Research

A Serenade:
In light of the fact that my next assignment is a short serenade for strings, it seemed appropriate to research this form.

A serenade is a composition written in someone’s honour – in my case, I was inspired by the notes in the course materials and I visualised flying over the rolling countryside. Perhaps, therefore, I can therefore attribute my piece to the beauty around me in Somerset.

The serenade has changed over the years.  In the early years, it was performed by a lover to his lady in an attempt to woo her.  This started in the Medieval era and was typically sung and accompanied by lute or guitar.

During the Baroque era, the form developed and was known as a Serenata.  It was a type of cantata and was performed in the evenings outdoors by small groups of instruments and vocals.  Because of the external setting of these performances, louder instruments were often used like trumpets and horns.

Larger instrumental ensembles characterised this form in the Classical and Romantic era with multiple movements.  Lighter in character to the symphony these serenades were deemed more ‘tuneful’ than thematic.  Mozart typified the style in the 18th century and wrote them typically for special occasions; one of his most famous was Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.  Wind instruments combined with basses and violas often with marchlike opening and closing movements – often the performers marched to and from the performance location.

In the 19th century the serenade had become an orchestral piece and it dominated over the 18th century wind ensemble.  Brahms, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Elgar, Strauss and Sibelius all wrote serenades.

In general terms, the form consists commonly of a multi-movement structure (4-10 movements).  Fast opening, middle slow movements alternating with fast ones, closing with fast Presto or Allegro.  A serenade is in between a Suite and a Symphony, light and casual in nature.

Source: Unknown. (Unknown). Serenade. Available: Last accessed 28/10/2013.

The String Orchestra
Having studied the chapter on The String Orchestra from ‘Orchestral Technique’ by Gordon Jacob, I thought it would be useful to make a list of key things I should remember before writing my assignment:

  • Give plenty of rests to the double basses
  • Never write the cellos and bass parts on one stave
  • In five-part polyphony where an independent cello part is required divide the cellos putting lowest part in the second half of the cellos either in unison or octave above double basses
  • Violas are most effective and characteristic on the C string
  • Chords of 2-4 notes often written for violin, viola and cello; care needed to avoid technical difficulties
  • Two note chords: easiest chords have notes are those where one note is an open string or ‘double-stopping’ two notes on adjacent strings
  • Three note chords: confine to having at least one open string as most powerful.
  • Combinations of 5ths and 6ths are easy and sonorous
  • Three and four-part chords effective only in f and ff and where series of emphatic detached chords are required
  • When transcribing from piano where two hands are far apart = fill in gap in arrangement
  • When transcribing low-placed chords in left-hand part from a piano piece = rearrange them with a clear octave at the bottom of the chords

Source: Jacob, G. (2004). The String Orchestra. In: Unknown Orchestral Technique – A Manual for Students. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pg6-18.

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