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Blue Work

serenade pour cordes/ Serenade for Strings

for string orchestra

Year:  2001   ·  Duration:  17m

Year:  2001
Duration:  17m

Nigel Keay

Composer:   Nigel Keay

Films, Audio & Samples

Nigel Keay: Serenade for St...

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Nigel Keay: Serenade for St...

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Sample Score

Sample: First two pages of each movement

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To borrow or hire parts please email SOUNZ directly at Please note that only library members in New Zealand and Australia can borrow or hire parts.


The composition of the 'Serenade for Strings' was undertaken from 2001 and this work succeeds Nigel Keay's 'Viola Concerto'. The 'Serenade' is a four movement work of around 17 minutes duration in an essentially lyrical style. The initial inspiration for the 'Serenade for String Orchestra' came from being involved as a violist in a string orchestra in Caen, Lower Normandy, which was assembling a programme of String Serenades. 'Serenade for Strings' is dedicated to Valerie Baisnae who played violin in this group.

From June 2001, work continued on the second movement in Paris and the writing was eventually finished in 2002. The first movement ('Moderato') starts very simply, which represents a tabula rasa where the lines accumulate one by one to construct the harmony, a detachment from what had been the heavy task of writing the 'Viola Concerto'. 'Serenade for Strings' starts from nothing to create new harmonies.

Concerning the idea of the serenade, today a very imprecise musical form, the idea of the evening or night is kept through using a musical language that is quite dark. The first movement is based on a short, recurring chromatic melody constructed of quavers, but which is surrounded by a more and more elaborate variation of the background material. The second movement ('Allegro') is constructed on a kind of moto perpetuo texture long interwoven lines, which evolve into increasingly ornamented and elaborate melodies. The third movement ('Adagietto') is the darkest movement, marked by an often low orchestral tessitura. The bare melodies create the most desperate and tender moments of this work. The fourth movement ('Vivo') makes a lively contrast to the third with an optimistic opening. Melodic motives are tossed around the orchestra as in a game. But towards the end the nostalgic themes of the first movement are recalled.

"Comme tu me plairais, o nuit ! sans ces etoiles Dont la lumiere parle un langage connu ! Car je cherche le vide, et le noir, et le nu ! Baudelaire 'Obsession'"

Dedication note

to Valerie

Contents note

four movements

Performance history

21 Mar 2002: Performed in a rehearsed reading by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hamish McKeich as part of the NZSO-SOUNZ Readings

21 Oct 2004: Performed by Ensemble Polymnia cond. Sarah Bisley; Eglise St Julien-le-Pauvre, Paris, France

24 Oct 2004: Ensemble Polymnia conducted by Sarah Bisley

08 Dec 2006: Performed by L'Ensemble de l'APEIM (Orchestre 2021) conducted by Elizabeth Askren in the Grand Salon of the Fondation des États-Unis, Paris, 7th December 2006.

12 May 2013: Matariki - Ensemble Polymnia

Orchestre Idomenee conducted by Didier Jacquin

Performed by Orchestre 2021, conducted by Elizabeth Askren in December, 2006

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