Eine kleine Nachtmusik

Eine kleine Nachtmusik[1] (Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major), K. 525, is a 1787 composition for a chamber ensemble by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The German title means "a little serenade," though it is often rendered more literally but less accurately as "a little night music."[2] The work is written for an ensemble of two violins, viola, and cello with optional double bass, but is often performed by string orchestras.[3]

Composition, publication, and reception

The serenade was completed in Vienna on 10 August 1787,[3] around the time Mozart was working on the second act of his opera Don Giovanni.[4] It is not known why it was composed.[5] 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.[6]

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."[7] 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.[8]

The work was not published until about 1827, long after Mozart's death, by Johann André in Offenbach am Main.[3] 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.[9] 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."[6]


The work has four movements:

  1. Allegro
  2. Romanze: Andante
  3. Menuetto: Allegretto
  4. Rondo: Allegro


(The first theme)

1. Allegro
Performed by the Advent Chamber Orchestra

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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. There is a brief coda.


The second movement, with the tempo marked Andante, is a "Romanze" in the subdominant key of C major. A feeling of intimacy and tenderness prevails throughout this movement. 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. Heartz describes the movement as evoking gavotte rhythm: each of its sections begins in the middle of the measure, with a double upbeat.[10]

The third movement, marked Allegretto, is a minuet and trio, both in 3
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.


4. Rondo
Electronic version, arranged by Steamboat Electric/Hans-Peter Scholz

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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 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.").[8] The second movement in his listing, a minuet and trio, was long thought lost and no one knows if it was Mozart or someone else who removed it. Musicologist Alfred Einstein suggested, however, that a minuet in Piano Sonata in B-flat major, K. 498a, is the missing movement.[11] The sonata's minuet has been recorded in an arrangement for strings made by Jonathan Del Mar for Nimbus Records.[12]

See also


  1. German pronunciation: [ˈʔaɪnə ˈklaɪnə ˈnaxtmuˌziːk]
  2. See "Nachtmusik" and "Notturno" entries in Grove Music Online.
  3. 1 2 3 Holoman (1992, 397)
  4. Einstein, Alfred; Arthur Mendel, Nathan Broder (translators) (1962). Mozart, His Character, His Work. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 206. ISBN 978-0-19-500732-9.
  5. Holoman, D. Kern (1992). Evenings with the orchestra: a Norton companion for concertgoers. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 398. ISBN 978-0-393-02936-9.
  6. 1 2 Hildesheimer (1991, 215)
  7. The full entry reads (in German) "Eine kleine Nachtmusik, bestehend in einem Allegro.Menuett und Trio.–Romance.Menuett und Trio, und Finale.–2 violini, viola e bassi."; "A little serenade, consisting of an allegro, a minuet and trio, a romance, [another] minuet and trio, and a finale. For two violins, viola, and bass instruments." Mozart's "incipit" (quotation for identification purposes) consists of the first two bars of the first movement. The catalog is posted at the web site of the British Library. Quotation of text is from German Wikipedia, "Eine kleine Nachtmusik."
  8. 1 2 Zaslaw and Cowdery (1991, 250)
  9. Jacobson (2003, 38), Hildesheimer (1991, 215)
  10. Heartz (2009:185)
  11. Einstein, Alfred; Arthur Mendel, Nathan Broder (translators) (1965). Mozart: His Character, His Work. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-19-500732-9. OCLC 31827291.
  12. "Nimbus Records, track list".


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