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Sérénade for cello and piano op. 46

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Mel Bonis’s Sérénade was published by Leduc in 1899, a year marked by a wealth of new publications, since MarionnettesBarcarolle-ÉtudeRegina cœli and Prière de Noël (on a poem by Amédée-Louis Hettich) also appeared in print that same year. Dedicated to the cellist Marguerite Chaigneau (1875–1943), the piece can also be played on the violin. It reveals Mel Bonis’s fondness for individual genre pieces inherited from the Romantics (barcarolle, impromptu, ballade, etc.), the inspiration of which remains vague. Cast in an ABA’ form, the Sérénade presents no particular technical difficulties and belongs to the sphere of “home music”, meant to be played among family or friends. It leaves the cello almost always in the foreground and gives it all the cantabile expression, though the piano at times ventures into dialogue. But it also reveals the composer’s ambivalence, wavering between the conventions of the salon piece and the desire to introduce more personal accents: alongside the melodic charm, the conventional harmonies, the succession of phrases built on the same rhythmic scheme, one discovers richer chords and unexpected modulations (such as the one into A flat major, a tritone apart from the home key, D major), while the five or six-bar phrases disrupt the four-square symmetry. These are the moments when the piano abandons its strict role as an accompanist and becomes more melodic. 


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