The Serenade in D major, Op 8, was composed during 1795 to 1797, and published by Artaria in 1797. It opens and closes with a march, using the same thematic material, but the preserved dynamic markings preclude any approaching crescendo or any diminuendo to simulate departure. The Serenade was challenging material to play by the apparent standards of the time, but it looks as though Beethoven was already acquainted with the great violinist Schuppanzigh at this time. The Adagio which follows the Marcia has so much of the character of string-quartet music, in which the leading violinist plays solo decorations after the pattern of an aria, that an association with the semi-contemporary Opus 18 Quartets, and also even already with Schuppanzigh, may not be too fanciful. Unlike anything in Opus 3, this movement seems intended to be deeply restful. The Menuetto and Trio have a nimble eloquence that culminates in delightful pizzicati. The second Adagio opens with a deeply expressive duet for the violin and viola doubling in octaves and the cello; this is barely established when it is brusquely interrupted by a short section of much faster and wider-ranging material, Scherzo: Allegro molto. Almost inevitably it seems, the soulful Adagio duet—with doubling—returns; after a further scherzando interruption the original philosophical material returns finally to round off the movement.
Next comes a spirited and lively Allegretto alla Polacca, one of the few real polonaises to survive from the period between those of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (another specialist) and Chopin. Beethoven seems to approach this temporary excursion into couleur locale with special relish. A rather more orthodox theme (Andante quasi allegretto) and six variations come next, perhaps for the only time in the string trios showing influence from the music, or even teaching, of Haydn. The Marcia follows a rather special cello variation to complete the entertainment.
from notes by Stephen Daw © 1998