Top 50 Favorite/Best Classical – #11 Dvorak Serenade for Strings in E major, Op. 22

Coming in at #11 on my Top 50 Favorite/Best Classical is Antonin Dvorak with his lovely, delightful Serenade for Strings in E major, Op. 22, which he composed in 1875 in less than two weeks. Those were happy times for Dvorak, who had recently gotten married and just had his first child. He received money to be a composer full time. And then he produces this belle gem. 

The serenade begins with this heart-warming gentle melody that envelops even the coldest, deadest heart. It’s the kind of melody that, on cold wintry days, you’re reminded of the beautiful, warm, clear sunny days of spring. It’s the kind of melody that, when you do listen to it on that beautiful, warm, clear sunny day in spring, you are fulfilled, that you’ve achieved nirvana in life. 

I listened to this serenade one time in the summer of 2000 when I was working as a tour bus driver in Juneau, Alaska. I worked 80 hours a week and made good cash. On one of my days off, I was sitting in the room I had rented, and this serenade played. I remember looking out the window to the grass in the front lawn, with the beautiful sun warming the air. I also remember the homeowner, when this piece played, he came in the room just to enjoy its beauty. 

The serenade continues into the second movement, a beautiful gentle waltz that glides across with the smoothness of a master dancer. There’s something about these first two movements of the Serenade, at least for my soul. It’s shocking to see in my iTunes playlist how often I’ve listened to the first two movements compared to the remaining three. They are above and beyond the most beautiful melodies Dvorak produced. 

I don’t mean to speak ill at all of the three following movements, because they, too, are great. All five movements follow an ABA form for each movement, having a contrasting middle theme followed by a retake on the primary theme. The third movement is a scherzo, itself being a contrast to the soft, gentle first two movements. The fourth movement is a larghetto, one last soft melody before the conclusion. The fifth movement concludes the serenade with a lovely Bohemian folk dance which also includes some recapitulations of the themes from the previous movements. 

There are many good recordings of the Serenade for Strings. This one from Seiji Ozawa is great. Enjoy!

#11 – Dvorak Serenade for Strings in E major, Op. 22

#12 – Stravinsky Le Sacre du Printemps

#13 – Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue

#14 – Mozart Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551

#15 – Coltrane My Favorite Things

#16 – Dvorak Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70

#17 – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30

#18 – Mozart Don Giovanni, K. 527

#19 – Liszt Les Preludes, S. 97

#20 – Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro, K. 492

#21 – Tchaikovsky Swan Lake, Op. 20 

#22 – Mahler Symphony No. 2 in C minor

#23 – Tchaikovsky String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11

#24 – Williams Empire Strikes Back

#25 – Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb major, Op. 73

#26 – Bernstein West Side Story

#27 – Enescu – Octet for Strings in C major, Op. 7

#28 – Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110

#29 – Mussorgsky Night on Bald Mountain

#30 – Webber Phantom of the Opera

#31 – Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky

#32 – Chopin Nocturne in Bb minor, Op. 9, No. 1

#33 – Debussy Images, Book 1, L110

#34 – Debussy Pour Le Piano, L. 95

#35 – Chaminade Guitare, Op. 32

#36 – Chopin Berceuse in Db major, Op. 57

#37 – Boulanger Nocturne pour violon et piano

#38 – Schönberg Les Miserables

#39 – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18

#40 – Miranda Hamilton

#41 – Strauss Salomé

#42 – Britten Peter Grimes

#43 – Loewe My Fair Lady

#44 – Liszt Mephisto Waltzes

#45 – Webber Evita

#46 – Poledouris Conan The Barbarian

#47 – Bernstein Trouble in Tahiti

#48 – Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67

#49 – Chaminade La Lisonjera, Op. 50

#50 – Beethoven Coriolan Overture, Op. 62

Honorable Mention

Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125

Tchaikovsky Nutcracker

Jobim Girl From Ipanema

Shostakovich Suite for Variety Orchestra

Schubert Symphony No. 9 in C major, D 944

Saariaho L’Amour de Loin

Schubert String Quartet No. 14 “Death and the Maiden”

Desmond Take Five

Wagner Die Walküre 

Puccini Tosca

Davis So What

Stravinsky Petroushka 

Wagner Tristan Und Isolde

Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings

Williams Raiders of the Lost Ark

Verdi Aïda

Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht

Grisey Les espaces acoustiques

Gade – Octet for 4 violins, 2 violas, 2 violoncellos in F major, Op. 17

Schubert – Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D759

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