Eine kleine Nachtmusik[a] (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". The work is written for an ensemble of two violins, viola, and cello with optional double bass but is often performed by string orchestras.
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".[b] 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. There is a brief coda.
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.
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.
The fourth and last movement is in lively tempo, marked Allegro; the key is again G major. The movement is written in modified sonata form where the first subject from the recapitulation is placed after the second. 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.
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. Musicologist Alfred Einstein suggested, however, that a minuet in Piano Sonata in B♭ major, K. 498a, is the missing movement. The sonata's minuet has been recorded in an arrangement for strings made by Jonathan Del Mar for Nimbus Records.