Richard Strauss: Serenade for Winds


Richard Strauss composed his Serenade for Winds in Munich in 1882 at age 17. The world premiere of the work took place in Dresden on 27th November 1882. An extraordinary teenager, the sheer charm and skill that exudes his Serenade for Winds makes it a staple in late romantic repertoire. 

The inspiration for this work came from his father, Franz Stauss, who was the principal horn in the orchestra of the Bavarian Court Opera in Munich. Growing up with one of the most admired brass players in Europe certainly has a knock-on effect in Strauss’ music. The classical style of the Serenade for Winds shows the kind of music that Strauss had grown up with. Mendelssohn, Chopin, Mozart and Schubert all come to mind.

The Music

Composed for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 1 contrabassoon and 4 horns, Strauss’ Serenade for Winds is a short and sweet work. Composed in one single movement, the work is about 10 minutes in duration. 

The tempo is marked Andante, and this slow speed accentuates the luscious harmonies. The rich sonority that carries through the work is often likened to the works of Mozart. The lyricism throughout is honeyed with glimmers of dissonance, which hones in on the romantic genre. The style, however, echoes the style of a conventional Classical-era chamber work. The structure also exhibits classical predictability as it is in sonata form. 

Though the more formal structure of the work harks back to Classical traditions, Strauss’ melodic material points to the future. The exuberant musical material shows Strauss’ flair for writing wide-ranging passionate themes, warm interludes and soaring lyricism. It was this kind of music that audiences came to know and love throughout Strauss’ professional career as a composer.

Final Thoughts

Even though Richard Strauss composed his Serenade for Winds at age 17, the work displays glimmers of true maturity that would later blossom into his later works. Strauss’ unique use of a wind chamber ensemble gives this work the charm and character that it is well-loved for.

Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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