Eine Kleine Nachtmusic

Review Essay

From the opening bars of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusic, the listener can instantaneously recognize its memorable melody. The formal name of this iconic music piece is Serenade No. 13 in G Major, K 525. Originally, it was a serenade for a strings quintet: two violins, viola, cello, and bass; although now usually performed by a bigger number of instruments. Allegro, the first movement of the Serenade is admired for its lively, joyful melodies and memorable themes.

The Serenade is an example of chamber orchestra concert and intends for light entertainment. Chamber music features small ensembles of instruments without a conductor (Kamien 173). Therefore, each musician must be sensitive coordinating dynamics and phrasing with the others. The New Century Chamber Orchestra includes ten violins, four violas, four cellos, and a bass. The first violin, whom the rest of the ensemble follows, is Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. However, there is no conductor the musicians managed to perform the Serenade brilliantly and in concord.

The Serenade No. 13 (1787) is the most enduring of Mozart’s works. The title Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music) is a byname; “Nachtmusik” was a common term for serenades. Its four movements are written in standard form and mirror the tempo markings typical for the symphony. The Allegro is in sonata-allegro form, structured around the interaction of two contrasting themes and fast tempo. Serenades were very popular during the 18th century, and Mozart had extensive experience composing them.

In the Classical period entertaining and lively music were fashionable. Composers instead of challenging listeners with complexity wrote music full of variety and contrast that also evoked emotions. They wanted the music to sound natural, well-structured and attractive to the average listener. Eine Kleine Nachtmusic opens with sonata-allegro form; surprising amount of music in the Classical period was composed in sonata form. The Serenade is memorable because of its geometrically balanced composition, melody, and intimate chamber music atmosphere.

Eine Kleine Nachtmusic is a symphony in the classical sonata form, which consists of the exposition, development, and recapitulation with coda (Kamien 161).The exposition presents two themes in different keys, the first is in G major and the second is in D major. The first theme has fanfare and surging melody. The second theme is gracious, more lyrical, and contrasting to the previous. The development begins in D major, elaborates the main themes then prepares for repetition in recapitulation without changing keys. The six bar tutti coda extends closing in G major. The Serenade is outstanding because of its harmonious composition.

The exposition is my favorite section; it opens with ascending fanfare answered by a descending figure, this creates four bar phrase. Texturally, all members of the ensemble play the same melody. The second phrase perfectly balances the opening; it builds around the same harmonies but pivots twice its speed. As the music progresses Mozart increases the tension; this momentum continues to the little tail section of the opening. In the exposition unity and variety work hand in hand; it has the balanced sense of rising and falling.

In the development something happens to the order, the beginning is in the state of turmoil. It starts with the fanfares on D major, not G, which is momentarily disorienting, that is why it is at least favorite part. The aspects of the two themes become conflated; they bustle to return the balance that was previously. In the middle part of the development section, two themes are skillfully elaborated and modulated, although the beginning is too dramatic.

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik Allegro remains among the most frequently performed classical compositions. Need for variety tempered by balance and unity is crucial to 18th-century musical thinking. Through variety, Mozart created drama, musical storyline, engaged and stimulated emotions. Mozart’s iconic piece proved that light and pleasing music certainly can be sublime.

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