Serenata Notturna (violin and piano)

Programme Note

Serenata Notturna was written in 1998 to a private commission. It received its first public performance with Helena Smart (violin) and Caroline Jaya-Ratnam (piano) at the String Final of BBC Young Musicians 2000 in Manchester.

As the title suggests, the piece evokes the atmosphere of night music.   Following a reflective opening where the pitch material outlines a twelve-note series, the music becomes more agitated, developing into a quasi danse macabre, which eventually reaches a powerful climax.   The music then subsides into a more tranquil atmosphere, where the previous dissonant material transforms itself into a simple diatonic melody (‘like a lullaby’), the basic outline of which has already been present in the music from the beginning. Thus the dark turmoil of the first part of the work becomes transfigured – hence the quotation at the beginning of the score: out of darkness cometh light.

After finishing the Serenata, a substantial part of the same music became an outline sketch for the slow movement of a Violin Concerto that I had just started to compose. The concerto was premiered by Lyn Fletcher and the Hallé Orchestra, conducted by Kent Nagano, at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, in February 2000. It has since been recorded on the Chandos label by Olivier Charlier, with the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Martyn Brabbins.

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Gregson’s Serenata Notturna for violin and piano, capturing most effectively the dark, reflective atmosphere of night.

Emma Lilley, Hereford Times, August 2017

Serenata Notturna … is a deeply personal interpretation of the time-honoured musical trajectory of darkness into light …. Violinist Yury Torchinsky and Paul Janes offer a spontaneous-sounding, poetic reading that unfolds with the intensity of live performance.

Paul Conway, Musical Opinion, July/September 2021

Work Details

  • Date of Composition: 1998
  • Publisher: Novello
  • Genre:
  • Duration: 8'
  • Instrumentation: violin and piano

First Performance

  • Date: 23 February 2000
  • Venue: Concert Hall, RNCM, Manchester, UK, at the String Final of BBC Young Musicians 2000
  • Performers:
    Helena Smart (violin) Caroline Jaya-Ratnam (piano)



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