When dismissing his Prague Conservatory composition class for the summer at the end of the 1891-1892 school year, Antonín Dvorák bade 18-year-old Josef Suk, "It's summertime now, so go and make something lively for a change, to compensate for all those pomposities in minor." Suk took that advice and that summer created what is still his best-known work, a sunny and uncomplicated Serenade of substantial dimensions, lasting nearly a half hour. In mood and mastery it is worthy of comparison with other great nineteenth century string works such as the Serenade by Tchaikovsky, the Holberg Suite by Grieg, and the String Serenade by Dvorák himself. The line of sunny string works would continue with compositions by the likes of Elgar, Holst, Britten, and Diamond.
Little in the way of analysis is required to absorb and appreciate this gentle and beautiful piece, though it is worth noting that the main subject of the first movement is practically identical with part of the main theme of Brahms' violin concerto. The most substantial movement is the lyrical slow movement, at over ten minutes. One of the main pieces in the Romantic string orchestra repertory, the Serenade was premiered as a whole on February 25, 1895, by the Prague Conservatory Orchestra conducted by Antonín Bennewitz, to great acclaim; two movements had been heard 14 months earlier in Tabor, conducted by Suk himself.