In the midst of a hot, wet and steamy summer here in the Northeast, it’s not at all surprising for me – as the sweltering day draws to a close – to turn to some light relief. Last night, for instance, I reveled in listening to Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, that beautiful serenade in G major for string orchestra he completed in Vienna on 10 August 1787, around the time he was working on the second act of his opera Don Giovanni. The German title means “a little serenade”, though it is often rendered more literally but less accurately as “a little night music.”
However, the work was not published until about 1827, long after Mozart’s death. It had been sold to the publisher Johann André in Offenbach am Main 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, it is considered by many that the serenade is the most popular of all Mozart’s works. Of the music, a contemporary writes, “even if we hear it on every street corner, its high quality is undisputed, an occasional piece from a light but happy pen.”
It was originally composed as a string quintet. While most serenades are in five movements, this one is only in four; it is believed that an additional minuet has been lost (I. Allegro. II. Romanze. III. Menuetto. IV. Allegro.)
Listen here on YouTube to the gay and brisk first movement, Allegro.
It has two light themes with no development to speak of, and is performed by the New Century Chamber Orchestra and Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.
In the Romanze a sentimental melody is followed by two vivacious sections; after each of these the melody is repeated. A graceful and formal minuet and a vivacious rondo are the two concluding movements.
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