8 Jan 2019

WOLF: Italian Serenade

From Music Alive, 7:40 pm on 8 January 2019

A short light-hearted work which has nevertheless been described as 'a miniature masterpiece'.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Played by the Borodin Quartet at their Chamber Music New Zealand concert in Auckland Town Hall, 16 September 2018.

Borodin Quartet

Borodin Quartet Photo: CMNZ

The Italian Serenade was whipped up by the composer over a few days in 1887 and although no program was ascribed to it, it seems it could hold a tale.

Wolf at the time was immersed in setting the verse of the German Romantic writer Joseph Eichendorff to song. The Serenade bears thematic resemblance to one such song about a soldier's love for a lady dwelling in a castle. This, in turn, shares similarities to Eichendorff's novella, From the Life of a Ne'er-Do-Well, in which an Italian serenade features prominently.

Wolf arranged the Serenade for small string orchestra in 1892. Sketches for another four movements over the next several years suggest he felt there was more to extract from the idea, but the sketches remained just that and the Italian Serenade survives as a concise 7 minute snapshot of Wolf's instrumental composition.

In the words of academic Robert Gutman: 'The essence of the delicious Italian Serenade is its antithesis of romantic sentiment and mocking wit'.

Recorded in Auckland Town Hall, 16 September 2018 by RNZ Concert
Producer: Tim Dodd; Engineer: Adrian Hollay