Serenade No. 1 in D major, Op. 11

I. Allegro molto
II. Scherzo. Allegro non troppo
III. Adagio non troppo
IV. Menuetto I. – Menuetto II.
V. Scherzo. Allegro
VI. Rondo. Allegro


In 1857, Brahms (1833-1897), thanks to a recommendation from Clara Schumann, entered the service of the Detmold court which was famous for its adventurous music life. Among his duties was to teach Princess Friderike piano as well as lead the local mixed choir and orchestra. The prince of Detmold, Leopold III. employed an orchestra of 45 musicians. The ensemble played not only the fashionable composers of the era but also the music of Mozart and Haydn. Brahms naturally took the opportunity to study the heritage of the two great Viennese classicists, paying particular attention to their symphonies and divertimenti. His first orchestral work, the Serenade in D major, evokes this style. In September 1859, he sent the second and third movements to Clara Schumann for her birthday, and she was overwhelmed by them. In 1858, Brahms planned the work for nine string and woodwind instruments. It was performed in this version at a concert in Detmold. The orchestral version was not heard until March 1860 in Hannover, conducted by Brahms’s friend, the world famous Hungarian violinist József Joachim.


The six movement serenade not only demonstrates the influences of Haydn and Mozart but also those of their successors, Beethoven and Schubert. But we can also note many features such as unique melodic shapes, instrumental solutions and complex polyrhythms which distinguish Brahms’s music from anyone else’s.

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