Serenade in D major, op. 25 (Beethoven)

…this upbeat music was probably not intended for the concert hall
so much as for domestic music making…amateur chamber music filled homes and salons and provided an important source of income for composers.

Program note
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
Serenade in D major, op. 25

Entrata: Allegro
Tempo ordinario d’un menuetto
Allegro molto
Andante con variazioni
Allegro vivace e disinvolto – Presto

A fanfare-like flute melody announces Ludwig van Beethoven’s cheery Opus 25 Serenade, violin and viola soon responding in kind. Published in 1802, the Serenade is very different in mood from the grand drama of the Third Symphony, ‘Eroica’, which the composer would begin work on that year. There is also no outward sign here of Beethoven’s despair about his advancing deafness, which he revealed in his famous letter known as The Heiligenstadt Testament, written to his brothers in 1802 (but not opened until his death).

But this upbeat music was probably not intended for the concert hall so much as for domestic music making – with recorded music still a century away, amateur chamber music filled homes and salons and provided an important source of income for composers.

Here Beethoven acknowledges the format set out by Mozart in his own serenades, opening with a bright march movement. The march is followed by a minuet with two trios – the first showcasing violin and viola alone, while the second trio sees the strings providing a bouncy accompaniment for the flute.

A driving Allegro molto is soon followed by the Serenade’s longest movement. A theme and variations, the fourth movement opens with double-stopping from the strings that gives the illusion of a larger ensemble before Beethoven gives each instrument a moment in the sun. The Serenade comes to a close with a snappy melody and blistering Presto finale.

The Serenade was so popular that Beethoven allowed an arrangement of it for piano and flute or violin to be published in 1803 as his Opus 41.

© Angus McPherson, 2021

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