Teresa Carreño’s Serenade for Strings

Notes by TŌN violinist Yada Lee

The Composer
Teresa Carreño was born in 1853 in Caracas, Venezuela. She began her piano studies with her father, who was also a politician. They emigrated from Caracas in 1862 due to the revolution, and moved to New York City in order to get young Teresa the best musical training. She had her début in the same year after the big move.

I did not know of Carreño before she was programmed on this concert. She had a fascinating career as a piano virtuoso who toured extensively around the world. She was also an accomplished opera singer, a devoted teacher, a wife, and a mother.

The Music
As a composer, Carreño wrote her first piece at the age of six. She completed the Serenade for Strings in 1895 in a small village on a lake in Austria. The music opens with a lush melody and texture that you would find in the opening credits of a Jane Austen period drama. You can see and hear green pastures and pizzicato raindrops throughout the movement. The second movement is a scherzo. It reminds me of a dramatic tempest. The chromaticism certainly paints the picture of rippled and moody water, and we as listeners are in the middle of this storm. The third movement is my favorite. It opens with a recitative by a solo cello. It is extremely operatic and full of character and emotion. We are then transported back to the same pasture and raindrops we heard in the beginning. The last movement is a march, but a playful one you could dance to, maybe if you were a witch. All is well at the end, it seems. E-flat major is confirmed confidently. We are back home at last.