Serenade No. 1
A reconstruction by Tony Turrill of the original chamber version
for excerpts click here
To listen to it in full:
Mvt 1 Allegro
Mvt 2 Scherzo
Mvt 3 Adagio
Mvt 4 Minuets
Mvt 5 Scherzo
Mvt 6 Rondo
The serenade was originally written for a chamber group, a nonet of wind and strings (Fl./2Cl./Bsn/Hn/Vn/Va/Ce./Bass). Brahms completed this version in 1858, sent it to his publishers and it was performed in concert in Hamburg in 1859 but not well received. However, a year later he had added a second flute, two oboes, a second bassoon, three horns, two trombones, a timpani and a full orchestra of strings. It is this version that was finally published and is the one we know today. The score of the nonet was lost, quite possibly destroyed by Brahms himself; unlike some who retained their sketches, he habitually destroyed completed scores that he subsequently changed.
The nonet was abnormal in that it had two clarinets and no oboes, unusual but a cursory examination of today’s score quickly explains why. Brahms uses the clarinet pair in ways that demonstrate his complete understanding of the tonal qualities of the instrument that he was later to use to the full in the symphonies, the trio, the sonatas and best of all the magnificent quintet.
There are times in the final version when he retains the woodwind exactly as they must have been in the original nonet. The most obvious is the first minuet, still largely written for nothing but two clarinets and a bassoon, joined briefly by the flute and tacet for the rest of the band but there are many more, for example the concluding section of the first movement, the divine introduction of the adagio, the emotional entry of the two clarinets and horn at bar 199, the conclusion of the same movement and the theme of the final rondo.
It is relatively easy to identify the skeleton of the chamber original and reverse Brahms’ re-orchestration exposing the original nonet. This is the result. Listening to it, it is very difficult to understand why the audience received the 1859 performance badly. There is one change to Brahm’s original membership of the group. A second violin has been included to improve the balance between wind and strings.
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