Tchaikovsky composed his Serenade in the autumn of 1880, at the same time as the ‘1812’ Overture. After several years spent travelling in Europe in the aftermath of his disastrous marriage, he had finally returned to Russia. His mind was very much on a successor to the Fourth Symphony, but the work that emerged in November was scored for strings only. The Serenade – which was dedicated to Karl Albrecht, a cellist and fellow professor of Tchaikovsky’s at the Moscow Conservatory – was first played at a private concert there on 3 December 1880. Its public premiere took place on 30 October 1881 in St Petersburg at a concert sponsored by the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Eduard Napravnik, and it was repeated in Moscow in January the following year.