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Nigel Keay - Serenade for Strings (2002)
(Sérénade pour cordes)

Audio; First Movement (Moderato) mp3   Second Movement (Allegro) mp3   Third Movement (Adagietto) mp3  Fourth Movement (Vivo) mp3 Recording of live performance by the ensemble "Orchestre 2021" conducted by Elizabeth Askren in the Grand Salon of the Fondation des États-Unis, Paris, Thursday 7th December 2006. Sound Engineer: Thomas Buet.

Ogg Vorbis files of December 2007 performance by Orchestre 2021 on the audio page.

Serenade for Strings - Programme Note

The composition of the Serenade for Strings was undertaken from 2001 and this work succeeds Nigel Keay's Viola Concerto. The Serenade is a four movement work of around 17 minutes duration in an essentially lyrical style. The initial inspiration for the Serenade for String Orchestra came from playing as a violist in a string orchestra in Caen, Lower Normandy, which was assembling a programme of string serenades. Serenade for Strings is dedicated to Valérie Baisnée who played violin in this group. On moving to Paris in June 2001 work continued on the second movement and the writing was eventually finished in 2002. The premiere performance was given by Ensemble Polymnia conducted by Sarah Bisley at the Saint-Julien le Pauvre Church in Paris on the 21st October 2004 and a recording of this can be heard on the audio page.

The first movement (Moderato) starts very simply, or with a single melodic line where the lines accumulate one by one to construct the harmony. This represents a tabula rasa, or a detachment from what had been the arduous task of writing the Viola Concerto. Concerning the idea of the serenade, today a very imprecise musical form, the idea of the evening or night is kept through using a musical language that is quite dark. Valérie Baisnée chose the following text from Baudelaire's Obsession to reflect the ambiance of the Serenade:

« Comme tu me plairais, ô nuit ! sans ces étoiles
Dont la lumière parle un langage connu !
Car je cherche le vide, et le noir, et le nu !

The first movement is based on a short, recurring chromatic melody constructed of quavers, but which is surrounded by a more and more elaborate variation of the background material.

The second movement (Allegro) is constructed on a kind of moto perpetuo texture long interwoven lines, which evolve into increasingly ornamented and elaborate melodies.

The third movement (Adagietto) is the darkest movement, marked by an often low orchestral tessitura. The bare melodies create the most desperate and tender moments of this work.

The fourth movement (Vivo) makes a lively contrast to the third with an optimistic opening. Melodic motives are tossed around the orchestra as in a game. But towards the end the nostalgic themes of the first movement are recalled.

Recent performance;

Thursday 18 July 2019, 8.30pm - Maison des Vins de Graves à Podensac, France. Concert "Mozartiana", Festival Musique en Graves. The Serenade was performed by Nina Millet and Lydia Becker (violins), Jordan Watt (viola), Louisa Deloye (cello), and Esther Brayer (double bass).

Performance history;

Information on previous performances of Nigel Keay's Serenade for Strings.