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serenade [Ital. sera = evening], term used to designate several types of musical composition. Opera and song literature yield numerous examples of the serenade sung or played by a lover at night beneath his beloved's window; outstanding is Deh, vieni alla finestra from Mozart's Don Giovanni. In the late 18th cent. the serenade became a light instrumental suite, whose movements were numerous and short and usually included a march and a minuet. The lover's song is known in German as Ständchen, while the suite is usually designated Nachtmusik, an example being Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik. The Italian serenata, while the equivalent of the French term sérénade, had an additional usage in the late 18th cent. in designating a short opera or dramatic cantata written to celebrate a special event in the household of the composer's patron.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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