The serenade is a genre of chamber music that was quite popular in the Classical era. One of Mozart’ most famous works, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, is a serenade. You have two movements from that piece on our playlist for Exam 3.

Classical and Romantic Eras

The most important and prevalent type of serenade in music history is a work for large instrumental ensemble in multiple movements, related to the divertimento, and mainly being composed in the Classical and Romantic periods, though a few examples exist from the 20th century. Usually the character of the work is lighter than other multiple-movement works for large ensemble (for example the symphony), with tunefulness being more important than thematic development or dramatic intensity. Most of these works are from Italy, Germany,Austria and Bohemia.

Among the most famous examples of the serenade from the 18th century are those by Mozart, whose serenades contain a multiplicity of movements ranging from four to ten. His serenades were often purely instrumental pieces, written for special occasions such as those commissioned for wedding ceremonies. The most typical ensemble for a serenade was a wind ensemble augmented with basses andviolas: instrumentalists who could stand, since the works were often performed outdoors. Frequently the serenades began and ended with movements of a march-like character—since the instrumentalists often had to march to and from the place of performance. Famous serenades by Mozart include the Haffner Serenade, the Serenata notturna, and one of his most famous works, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the last two of which would have been atypical for only using string instruments, had they been written earlier in the century.