The golden age of string orchestra repertoire must certainly be the period spanning the final decades of the 19th century to the early 20th century. The density of sound, great dynamic range, long phrases and virtuosity that are uniquely possible with this combination of instruments saw it become a particularly cherished ensemble for many of the greatest composers of the day. This same era also witnessed the birth of the Great National Schools and the influence of composers’ native folk melodies on their compositional output.
Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile (TH 63) is the composer’s own transcription of the second movement from his famous String Quartet No.1 (Op.11 / TH 111), prepared for a private concert in Paris (February 1888) with cellist Anatoly Brandukov and the Edouard Colonne Orchestra conducted by the composer.
Russian composer and pianist Anton Arensky (1861–1906), who was strongly influenced by Tchaikovsky’s style, is particularly known for his Variations Op.35a on a theme by Tchaikovsky. Again, this is an own-arrangement of the second movement of Arensky’s String Quartet No.2 in A minor. Written in 1894 on the occasion of Tchaikovsky’s death, the work takes as its theme Tchaikovsky’s song ‘Legend’ (Op.54/5), adding seven variations and a coda.
Elgar’s Elegy for Strings (Op.58) was written in 1909 after the funeral of Robert Hadden – one of the members of the Worshipful Company of Musicians in London – at
the suggestion of Elgar’s publisher Alfred Littleton and intended as a commemorative piece for future ceremonies. It was first performed in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1914, where it is still heard for commemorative celebrations today. Its popularity is justified by the poignant beauty of every single musical phrase.
Most famous for his series of serenades for string orchestra, Robert Fuchs (1847–1927) is considered a worthy heir to the Viennese romantic musical tradition. Appreciated by Johannes Brahms, who called him ‘a wonderful musician’, Fuchs forges a synthesis between the fresh and elegant style of Viennese music and the spontaneity of folk-inspired melodies through an excellent compositional technique.
The golden age of the String Orchestra repertoire were the last decades of the nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. The sound density, the great dynamic range, the soft drawings of the long phrasings and the instrumental virtuosity are all typical elements of this orchestral formation. In this same period the Great National Schools were born, seeking inspiration in the rich folk cultures.
Among the pieces composed in this period, the Andante Cantabile for cello and string orchestra op. 11 by Pyotr Ilytch Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) definitely deserves the spotlight. It is a transcription, written by the composer himself, of the second movement of the famous String Quartet n. 1 op. 11.
Strongly influenced by Tchaikovsky’s style, the Russian composer and pianist Anton Arensky (1861-1906) is particularly known for his Variations on a theme by Tchaikovsky op. 35a. Also in this case it is a transcription for string orchestra made by the composer himself from the second movement of his String Quartet no. 2 in A minor, written in 1894 as a tribute to Tchaikovsky’s death.
Edward Elgar’s Elegy for String Orchestra is justly famous for its poignant beauty and warm nostalgia. Robert Fuchs (1927-1847) is a worthy heir of the Viennese romantic musical tradition. Appreciated by Johannes Brahms, who called him “a wonderful musician”, Fuchs manages to make a synthesis between the fresh and elegant style of Viennese music and the spontaneity of popular-inspired melodies.
The Orchestra da Camera Orfeo was founded in 2020 by young and aspiring conductor Domenico Famà, together they are quickly building an international career, playing at important venues and festivals.