Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik was originally written for a chamber orchestra of two violins, viola, and cello.
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Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major), K. 525, is a 1787 composition for a chamber ensemble by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791). The German title means “a little night music”. The work is written for an ensemble of two violins, viola, cello and double bass, but is often performed by string orchestras. The serenade is one of Mozart’s most famous works.
Composition, publication, and reception
The serenade was completed in Vienna on 10 August 1787, around the time Mozart was working on the second act of his opera Don Giovanni. It is not known why it was composed. Wolfgang Hildesheimer, noting that most of Mozart’s serenades were written on commission, suggests that this serenade, too, was a commission, whose origin and first performance were not recorded.
The traditionally used name of the work comes from the entry Mozart made for it in his personal catalog, which begins, “Eine kleine Nacht-Musik”. As Zaslaw and Cowdery point out, Mozart almost certainly was not giving the piece a special title, but only entering in his records that he had completed a little serenade.
The work was not published until about 1827, long after Mozart’s death, by Johann André in Offenbach am Main. It had been sold to this publisher in 1799 by Mozart’s widow Constanze, part of a large bundle of her husband’s compositions.
Today, the serenade is widely performed and recorded; indeed, both Jacobson and Hildesheimer opine that the serenade is the most popular of all Mozart’s works. Of the music, Hildesheimer writes, “even if we hear it on every street corner, its high quality is undisputed, an occasional piece from a light but happy pen.”
The work has four movements:
This first movement is in sonata-allegro form. It opens with an ascending Mannheim rocket theme. The second theme is more graceful and in D major, the dominant key of G major. The exposition closes in D major and is repeated. The development section begins on D major and touches on D minor and C major before the work returns to G major for the recapitulation.
- The first theme
II. Romanze: Andante
The second movement, with the tempo marked Andante, is a Romanze in the subdominant key of C major. It is in rondo form, taking the shape A–B–A–C–A plus a final coda. The keys of the sections are C major for A and B, C minor for C. The middle appearance of A is truncated, consisting of only the first half of the theme. Daniel Heartz describes the movement as evoking gavotte rhythm: each of its sections begins in the middle of the measure, with a double upbeat.
III. Menuetto: Allegretto
The third movement, marked Allegretto, is a minuet and trio, both in 3
4 time. The minuet is in the home key of G major, the contrasting trio in the dominant key of D major. As is normal in this form, the minuet is played again da capo following the trio.
IV. Finale: Allegro
The fourth and last movement is in lively tempo, marked Allegro; the key is again G major. The movement is written in sonata form. Mozart specifies repeats not just for the exposition section but also for the following development and recapitulation section. The recapitulation’s first theme is unusual because only its last two bars return in the parallel minor. The work ends with a long coda.
Possible extra movement
In the catalog entry mentioned above, Mozart listed the work as having five movements (“Allegro – Minuet and Trio – Romance – Minuet and Trio – Finale.”). The second movement in his listing — a minuet and trio — was long thought lost, and no one knows if Mozart or someone else removed it. In his 1984 recording, Christopher Hogwood used a minuet of Thomas Attwood (found in his sketchbooks used while he took lessons from Mozart), and an additional newly composed trio to substitute the missing movement. Musicologist Alfred Einstein suggested, however, that a minuet in the Piano Sonata in B♭ major, K. 498a, is the missing movement. K. 498a, which is credited to the composer August Eberhard Müller, incorporates significant amounts of Mozart’s work in the form of reworkings of material from the piano concertos K. 450, K. 456, and K. 595, leading Einstein to suggest that the minuet in Müller’s sonata might be an arrangement of the missing movement from Eine kleine Nachtmusik.
In 1971, this movement was incorporated into a recording of the work prepared by the musicologist and performer Thurston Dart. In 1989, the minuet and trio of K. 498a was again recorded as part of an arrangement of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik made by Jonathan Del Mar for Nimbus Records.
Notes and references
- Dart, Thurston (1971) Chamber Music by Mozart at Discogs (list of releases)
- Einstein, Alfred (1962). Mozart, His Character, His Work. Translated by Arthur Mendel, Nathan Broder. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-500732-9. OCLC 31827291.
- Goodman, Roy. “Mozart, Eine kleine Nachtmusic“. Nimbus Records. NI7023. Archived from the original on 26 April 2009.
- Heartz, Daniel (2009). Mozart, Haydn and Early Beethoven, 1781–1802. New York: W. W. Norton.
- Hildesheimer, Wolfgang (1991). Mozart. Translated by Marion Faber. Macmillan. ISBN 0-374-52298-7.
- Holoman, D. Kern (1992). Evenings with the orchestra: a Norton companion for concertgoers. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-02936-0.
- Jacobson, Julius H. (2003). The Classical Music Experience: Discover the Music of the World’s Greatest Composers. Vol. 2. narrated by Kevin Kline. Sourcebooks. ISBN 1-57071-950-0.
- Unverricht, Hubert; Eisen, Cliff (2001a). “Nachtmusik (Ger.: ‘night music’)”. Grove Music Online. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.19524.
- Unverricht, Hubert; Eisen, Cliff (2001b). “Notturno (It.: ‘nocturnal’)”. Grove Music Online. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.20135.
- Zaslaw, Neal; Cowdery, William (1991). The Compleat Mozart: A Guide to the Musical Works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Norton. ISBN 0-393-02886-0.
- Serenade in G. Eine kleine Nachtmusik KV 525: Score and critical report (in German) in the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe
- Eine kleine Nachtmusik: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Performance of Eine kleine Nachtmusik by A Far Cry from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in MP3 format
- No. 4 in D, K. 203 (“Colloredo”)
- No. 5 in D, K. 204
- No. 6 in D, K. 239 (“Serenata Notturna”)
- No. 7 in D, K. 250 (“Haffner”)
- No. 9 in D, K. 320 (“Posthorn”)
- No. 10 in B♭, K. 361 (“Gran Partita”)
- No. 11 in E♭, K. 375
- No. 12 in C minor, K. 388
- No. 13 in G, K. 525 (“Eine kleine Nachtmusik”)