Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

Context

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik was composed in 1787 at the same time as he was writing the music for his opera Don Giovanni. The title translates to ‘A Little Serenade’, although it is also known as ‘A Little Night Music’. Originally, the serenade was composed for two violins, viola, cello with an optional double bass. However, the string orchestra version is now much more widely performed and recorded.

The work remained unpublished until way after Mozart had passed. In 1827 Johann André in Offenbach am Main was sold a stack of Mozart’s music by his widow, Constanze. Eine kleine Nachtmusik was in this bundle of music and was thus published by André. The serenade remains one of Mozart’s most famous and recognisable works, with all four movements bearing their own musical charms. 

 

The Music

Set into four movements, this light work takes you on an exciting musical journey.

 

Movement I – Allegro

Set into sonata-allegro form, the opening motif is repeated many times throughout the movement. The ascending theme, played in unison, has become one of the most instantly recognisable motifs. Following this stately theme is a more graceful theme, which has shifted from G major to D major. There is a sense of real positivity and light-heartedness throughout all four movements, but especially the first. The short development section makes way for a welcome recapitulation before returning back to the home key of G major before finishing in a powerful unison rhythm. 

 

Movement II – Romanze

The delicate second movement is marked Andante. Mozart moves to the subdominant key of C major for this movement, adding more tonal colour to each movement. Set in a ronda form with an added coda, the various sections show Mozart’s seamless ability to pass through various keys before ending back in the home key. The style of the movement is gavotte-like with how rhythms are written out and how phrases start and end. This movement ends with a repeat of the main theme, now in unison. 

 

Movement III – Menuetto 

Marked Allegretto, this minuet and trio movement is set in classic 3/4 time. The opening minuet revisits the home key of G major, whereas the contrasting trio section is back in the dominant key of D major. The flowing melody glides across the ensemble, with this movement really highlighting Mozart’s incredible flair for melody writing. 

 

Movement IV – Rondo

The animated final movement is back in the home key of G major. Composed in sonata form and Mozart plays around with different repeat markings. The violin’s melody is passed through different sections, with it always returning to the top violins. The tempo pushes the movement along, which ends with an extended coda section. 

 

Final Thoughts

Eine kleine Nachtmusik remains one of the most famous classical pieces ever composed. Mozart’s flair for melodic writing speaks volumes in this serenade, with each movement bursting with character. 

 

Happy Reading!

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You might also enjoy… Edvard Grieg: Holberg Suite

 

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