For the twelve and a half years wedding anniversary of Willem and Mathilde Mengelberg-Wubbe Diepenbrock composed not only the ‘official’ Bruiloftslied (Wedding Song, RC 115) on a text by Jan Beukers, but also Serenade on a poem by his wife Elisabeth:
I have made something else for Aal [Noordewier] on a verse that L[iesbeth] had put together in the meantime and that in any case lacks the philistine qualities of a true Dutch wedding song. (BD VIII:78)
Elisabeth Diepenbrock wrote the poem because she doubted whether her husband could use the mediocre text by Beukers.
The Serenade was not played at the festive evening of 5 January 1913, according to the diary of Elisabeth, as the Diepenbrocks soon realised that Aaltje Noordewier and the Beukers preferred the composition not to be performed:
They were afraid that I would come into the spotlight together with them, and as soon as we got the slightest inkling of it, I immediately said to Aal: “Actually, you should not sing that song”. Everyone was relieved. (BD VIII:84)
Looking back on the event, Elisabeth Diepenbrock wrote down the poem in her diary with the comment:
Fons turned it into a very nice song, and although it is merely a doggerel, and the only serious contribution, the only thing that was entertaining but animated, was smothered. And possibly rightly so, with almost a hundred guests! (BD VIII:85)
As far as we know this composition was never performed in public during Diepenbrock’s lifetime.
Serenade has a cantabile middle movement flanked by two sections in which Diepenbrock employs two contrasting rhythmic patterns. The length and melody of these patterns constantly vary. In the measures 75-78 and 91-94 he uses polymetre, a rare element in Diepenbrock’s oeuvre. Possibly these passages symbolise the union between two different personalities.
For the Alphons Diepenbrock Fund edition of 1959, at the request of Eduard Reeser, musicologist Norbert Loeser wrote the poem “Een schoon geheim met teedre schroom bewaard” (A Beautiful Secret Kept with Tender Hesitation) as a replacement of Elisabeth’s text to make the song suitable for a wedding. Thanks to this edition the Serenade may have been performed, but as Loeser’s mawkish and pious text was found to be quite outdated three decades later, the Donemus edition of 1995 gives the original verses.