1787: Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik, age 31

Mr. Peabody Says:

This is Mozart’s most famous piece. It was completed in Vienna on August 10, 1787. We do no know when the first performance took place. We do know that at some point it went viral in the 20th and 21st centuries, and it’s never been less than popular for more than two centuries.

The Gewandhaus Quartet:

  1. Frank-Michael Erben 1st violin
  2. Conrad Suske 2nd violin
  3. Volker Metz viola
  4. Jürnjakob Timm cello
  5. Stefan Adelmann doublebass


  1. Allegro (G major – D major – Ambiguous key – G major) 5:25
  2. Romanze: Andante (C major) 5:35
  3. Menuetto: Allegretto (G major, with trio in D major) 2:12
  4. Rondo: Allegro (G major – D major – Ambiguous key – G minor – G major) 5:04

Total time: 18:16

Arndt Auhagen/Concertgebouworkest Young

  1. Allegro (G major – D major – Ambiguous key – G major) 5:41
  2. Romanze: Andante (C major) 5:40
  3. Menuetto: Allegretto (G major, with trio in D major) 2:36
  4. Rondo: Allegro (G major – D major – Ambiguous key – G minor – G major) 4:13

Total time: 18:10

These kids are 14 to 18. I love this performance. But this is full of energy and sounds like something that was written yesterday, not hundreds of years ago.


  • two violins
  • viola,
  • cello
  • double bass,

This is often performed by string orchestras

“Eine kleine Nachtmusik” means “A Little Serenade”:

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” – a little serenade. Mozart was only entering in his records that he had completed a small composition.

A serenade is a vocal or instrumental performance given outdoors at night for a woman being courted. In other words, romantic music sung at night outdoors, and people still do this today. In other words, if you sing a love song at night, you are singing a serenade.

But in the time of Mozart it was also an instrumental composition in several movements, usually written for somewhat small group of players and usually played in a chamber room. A movement is just a part of a longer composition that has a clear beginning and ending so that it can be performed by itself.

It’s a composition for a chamber ensemble:

The word “chamber” just means a big room, and in the time of Mozart this was a place where musicians not only performed but also got together to share their newest music. If you wanted to get together with your closest friends and “try stuff out”, you played chamber music.


The real name is Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major), K. 525. When you see “K.” it is an abbreviation for “Köchel“, who was the man who attempted to put all of Mozart’s compositions in chronological order. Over the last couple hundred years this list has been revised as new facts come to light about when things were composed as well as how many things Mozart wrote.

Mozart died broke:

This was published after Mozart died in about about 1827.Mozart died in 1791, so it took 36 years for the music to get printed. It was sold to a publisher in 1799 by Mozart’s widow Constanze as part of a large bundle of her husband’s compositions. Mozart was one of several famous composers who died with almost no money, true also of Vivaldi, Schubert, Chopin any many others I can’t think of at the moment.

Today, the serenade is widely performed and recorded and is without doubt one of the most popular pieces ever written and also most instantly recognizable.

6 thoughts on “1787: Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik, age 31

  1. 2nd movement, A-B-A format, right?

    That B section. o.O I’ve never heard it played so quickly or forcefully. Or joyfully. Given the nature of the composer, this was probably for a very wealthy patron, someone who could swing 13 players. Not your typical hausmusik. Now.. given Wolfie’s,… nature.. I wonder.. is this is a soundtrack to an evening, or was he telling a story of some other past evening? That B section is almost a drunken horse ride! And the minuet that follows is a hoot!

    Huh. The only one I can think of that could swing a force this big was the Emperor. Or, rather, his Court.

    These kids get it. Wolfie would approve. I think so would Neville Marriner. And Gardiner. All that said, this room is *fantastic*, it’s tailor-made for an orchestra of those days. Enough reverb to tingle, not enough to muddle.

    The dead guy with the powdered wig had a really raunchy sense of humor. If you read his letters to his mother, sister and cousin, you’d blush, blanche, and then just facepalm.

    1. Oh and I meant to say really, above all — music is safe, in these youngster’s hearts. This really is what I think Mozart should be — dry, un-padded, bubbly, like a good champagne. Not lush and thick and dripping with syrup.

      These kids get that, and then they have such fire — music is in good hands.

      I’m sure there’s more like them.

  2. These kids are awesome . They put so much work into what they do and it shows in their performance. This group is composed of youngsters from the different countries of the EU.

    Thank you for your wonderful introductions. They are so informative.

  3. “Mozart was only entering in his records that he had completed a small composition.” I didn’t know this part. Imagine you write in your diary “I tried a little something today” and it becomes famous as “A Little Something”. I especially like this recording.

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