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The Serenade can stake a healthy claim as one of the very first works ever written by Elgar.
Even though it has a publication date putting it alongside the composer’s thirty-sixth birthday, it had its own birthday long before then, back in the mists of Elgar’s youth. Similarly, the Wand of Youth Suite, was ‘written’ in 1907, but featuring a tune by an Elgar possibly as young as just ten years old. The tune used in the Serenade is probably not quite that old, but it still relies on early notes for the music at its heart.
It was premiered, in a private performance, by the delightfully named Worcester Ladies Orchestral Class (conductor one E. Elgar) in 1892, but then heard professionally in the UK, in one of Victorian England’s favourite stomping grounds, New Brighton. For a short but golden time, New Brighton was north-west England’s centre of the musical universe, with Saturday concerts timed at 3.30 p.m. ‘after the banks close’, attracting not just huge audiences but great conductors and composers.
Academy of St Martin in the Fields; Neville Marriner (conductor); Decca: 4527072.
Illustration: Mark Millington