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Symphony Will Play Tributes To The Classic Serenade

Spokane Symphony

Location and time: The Met, Sunday at 3 p.m., Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $8-$18 available at symphony box office, 624-1200, and G&B;

Serenades captivated musicians, both classical and popular. Mozart and the Haydn brothers wrote them by the handfuls. Beethoven wrote one, both Brahms and Dvorak wrote two each, and even 20th-century composers such as Britten and Stravinsky gave the form a try.

Popular composers have either had fun with the form, as Rudolph Friml did with his “The Donkey Serenade,” or they waxed sentimental over it, as Glenn Miller did with his famous theme song “Moonlight Serenade.”

Miller’s classic provides the title to the final concert of the Spokane Symphony’s chamber orchestra series at The Met on Sunday afternoon. The program has no “Moonlight Serenade,” but it does include serenades by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Gioacchino Rossini, Antonin Dvorak and Richard Strauss. The orchestra’s music director, Fabio Mechetti, will conduct, and the program will be repeated at The Met Tuesday night.

The word “serenade” has come to mean a love song. This popular image runs counter to the more formal function of such works during the 18th-century heyday of serenade.

The serenades of Haydn’s and Mozart’s time honored members of the nobility or other officials of the church and state. Sometimes they honored birthdays, weddings or anniversaries of the rich and famous or were performed at academic celebrations. The word “serenade” itself is academic; it comes from the Latin “serenus,” which means “calm” or “fair,” because serenades were performed outdoors on pleasant evenings.

Such high formality invited parody. Mozart spoofed the form on a grand scale in his “Musical Joke,” a work in which Mozart imagines a serenade played by incompetent musicians. Even in the “Serenata notturna” the orchestra will perform Sunday, Mozart permits a short outburst of comedy in a virtuosic solo from the double bass.

And Sunday’s Rossini serenade begins with a pretentious-sounding slow introduction before settling down to the more light-hearted variations that make up the work.

For Sunday’s performance and its repetition on Tuesday, Mechetti has chosen serenades that show off the talents of individual players in the orchestra or whole sections of them.