Featured Recording

Murray Adaskin

Serenade for Strings


Murray Adaskin (1906–2002) wrote the Serenade for Strings in 1934 and Symphonova’s recording is the first performance of the piece on a CD.

The work requires a wide range of techniques for playing the strings, from pizzicato to using chords, as well as quite aggressive playing across all four strings. One of the remarkable aspects of the piece are the wonderfully independent contrapuntal lines, where the divisi often play dramatically different lines to what the principles play. In terms of the expressive behaviour of these independent lines, this results in a split between the divisi and their first players. For example, the divisi of the violas occasionally need to be expressive in conjunction with the principle second violin or with its divisi, rather than with the first of the violas. In such cases, my role as a symphonist is to both unify all of these disparate players into a whole, and at the same time, allow the individual voices two flow from one to the other.

The work affords the performer with real opportunity for a wide palette of musical expression and there is a huge amount that can be done with it. It’s strange that a work of this quality wasn’t recorded until now. For the first recording, we’ve chosen to have a relatively small ensemble, and a tempered approach to rubato which would have been a more common practice in Canada at the time Adaskin wrote the piece. I look forward to performing and recording the piece again, to explore how it might sound with a big ensemble and with much greater variations in dynamic range and in tempo.

Shelley Katz