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There are five movements: an opening Marcia, with a trio stringing together some well-known phrases over a stereotyped chord sequence, then a Menuetto alla tarantella which whirls along in a kaleidoscope of displaced bar lines and phrase-lengths. The gaunt opening of the Andante is given harmony and melody in four modulating variations and climaxes in a fifth, which opens out into a heartfelt dying rise and fades away on distant roundabouts. The second Menuetto, unlike the first, is a stolid affair, ostensibly neo-Classical except that the ‘repeats’ take different turnings; its Trio is a tender hybrid of Schubert and Poulenc, both ‘cubistified’. The Finale is really another tarantella in which a few scraps of silly tune are put through the textural, tonal and rhythmic mincer. Again, after the climax it fades away, this time into a sort of ‘haunted ballroom’.
The Serenade in C is dedicated with pleasure to six (by splitting the minuet and trio of the fourth movement) of my colleagues at Caius College, Cambridge.
from notes by Robin Holloway © 1998