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Italian Serenade in G major

Hugo Wolf (b. 1860 - d. 1903)

Jupiter Quartet (photo credit: Merri Cyr)

Jupiter Quartet (photo credit: Merri Cyr)

Composer
Hugo Wolf (b. 1860 - d. 1903)
Composition Year
1887
Artists
Jupiter String Quartet (Nelson Lee, Meg Freivogel McDonough [violins] Liz Freivogel [viola] Dan McDonough [cello])

Programme Note Writer:
© Ian Fox

This 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 Soldat) 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.  

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Italian Serenade in G major

Composer: Hugo Wolf (b. 1860 - d. 1903)
Performance date: Sunday 30th June 2013
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Hugo Wolf (b. 1860 - d. 1903)
Work Title Italian Serenade in G major
Composition Year 1887
Artist(s) Jupiter String Quartet (Nelson Lee, Meg Freivogel McDonough [violins] Liz Freivogel [viola] Dan McDonough [cello])
Performance Date Sunday 30th June 2013
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Coffee Concert
Duration 00:07:13
Recording Engineer Damian Chennells, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category String Quartet
Instrumentation 2vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © Ian Fox

This 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 Soldat) 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.