This attractive though slight work was written in 1838, a productive year which saw also the start of work on the famous Violin Concerto and the appearance of the F major Violin Sonata and First Cello Sonata in B flat. As with the Capriccio, the Serenade provokes what prove to be rather false expectations, both in its ostensible gravitas and in the elaborate delicacy of its piano writing. After this the Allegro, though marked also con fuoco in the piano part, does indeed convey what Radcliffe terms ‘a very well-behaved and genteel hilarity’, and the virtuosity is scaled down to suggest again a sort of ‘Song without Words, writ large’. If we glimpse here an endemic tendency towards almost dangerously regular phrase lengths, found in almost all Mendelssohn’s works and on occasion evocative of Blake’s ‘fearful symmetry’ in the minds of the unconverted, the day is nonetheless saved by the composer’s customary fecundity as a melodist. As before, the orchestra is allowed the last word.
from notes by Francis Pott © 1997