Serenade is one of those musical terms that has meant many different things at many different times. The term itself comes from the Italian sereno, which is from the Latin serenus, which means “serene.”
The original serenades—and by “original” I mean serenades from the 1500's and 1600's—were vocal pieces, usually meant to be sung outdoors in the quiet of the evening, and often aimed at the windows, and hearts, of beloved persons. Mozart and other composers of the Classical period turned the serenade into a multi-movement piece for various types and sizes of instrumental ensembles, and in that form the serenade is closely related to the form known as the divertimento. From the 19th century to this day, composers have applied the title “serenade” at their pleasure to any number of different kinds of pieces, some light-hearted and some very serious, but very few requiring lovers and windows.
A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.