Italian Serenade in G major

Composer: Hugo Wolf (b. 1860 - d. 1903)
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Composer: Hugo Wolf (b. 1860 - d. 1903)

Performance date: 30/06/2013

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1887

Duration: 00:07:13

Recording Engineer: Damian Chennells, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc

Instrumentation Category:String Quartet

Artists: Jupiter String Quartet (Nelson Lee, Meg Freivogel McDonough [violins], Liz Freivogel [viola], Dan McDonough [cello]) - [quartet]

charming piece began life as a string quartet movement in May 1887.  Wolf had been composing songs based on the
poems of Joseph Eichendorf, one of which (Der
) bears a close resemblance to the main theme of the quartet.  He was also probably influenced by
Eichendorf’s short novel From the Life of
a Ne’er-d-well,
which has a similar theme. He had originally planned a
three-movement work but his father died shortly after he completed the first
movement and the over-sensitive and indeed often neurotic Wolf seems to have
abandoned the work. Then in 1892 he returned to the score, this time intending
to write an Italian serenade, a four movement suite for small orchestra. He
orchestrated the existing movement and began sketches for the other movements
but never finished them.  In 1897 he was
working on a Tarantella to be included in the suite but suffered a nervous
breakdown and was committed to an asylum and again it was set aside. He later
was allowed his freedom but further signs of instability led to his return to
the asylum followed by his death there. Just the one delectable movement
remains to delight us today.

There is no trace of
his troubled existence in this happy, optimistic piece. The ebullient main
theme is heard at the start over a pizzicato accompaniment.  It has been suggested Wolf based it on an old
Italian melody and it certainly captures that mood.  The form is roughly a rondo with elegantly
contrasted episodes between the appearances of the principal theme. In all, it
is a stylish, witty piece, full of Italian warmth and gaiety.