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Eine Kleine Nachtmusik: History, Analysis & Composer

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  • 0:00 Mozart's Biography
  • 1:28 The Classical Era of Music
  • 2:25 Eine Kleine Nachtmusik…
  • 5:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Caitlin Daly

Caitlin has taught students in grades K-College. She has an MA in Musicology and an MS in Education.

This lesson focuses on Mozart's serenade, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. It provides details on the composer, the Classical era of music, and a brief analysis of the piece's four movements.

Mozart's Biography

Listen to the opening bars of Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and you will recognize its memorable melody almost instantaneously. Mozart wrote the piece towards the end of his short life, but it was not published and popularized until after his death. It is a fantastic example of a piece of music written during that time period and it is still enjoyable to listen to today.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria in 1756 to a musical family. His father, Leopold, was a local musician and teacher who started Wolfgang and his older sister, nicknamed Nannerl, on their musical paths at young ages. By the end of his first decade, Mozart started touring with Nannerl throughout Europe, both billed as child prodigies on piano and violin.

As he developed his instrumental skills, Mozart also began composing music. He had already written large works by his early teenage years and studied with several established composers, such as Johann Christian Bach (Johann Sebastian's youngest son). As his career flourished and grew, Mozart became well-versed at composing music in a wide variety of genres, including opera, chamber music, masses, and large orchestral works. He died in 1791 at the young age of 35, but his music and life story still captivate audiences today.

The Classical Era of Music

Mozart is considered one of the foremost composers from the Classical era of music, which occurred roughly between 1750 to 1820. Other famous composers from this era included Joseph Haydn and Franz Schubert. These composers focused on two big ideas:

  1. Writing hummable, memorable melodies (the main tunes of a piece)
  2. Using the melodies within the context of specific musical forms

Musical forms are like the floorplans of a house. If you looked at a house's blueprints, you would be able to see where each room of the house would be laid out (bedroom, kitchen, etc). Similarly, musical forms set up a listener's expectations for how the music will unfold. For example, we know that Taylor Swift is a pop star, and most pop songs are written in verse/chorus form; so we can guess that the chorus will come after the first verse of her latest song.

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik History and Analysis

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is one of Mozart's most well-known works. Although it was written in 1787, it was not published until roughly 40 years after his death. Historians found evidence in his notes of a fifth movement for the piece but think that the music might have been used in another piece, instead. Translated into English, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik means 'A Little Night Music' and is a serenade, or a light, breezy, entertaining piece of music.

Its four movements are all written in different popular forms of the time period and mirror the tempo markings that one would find in a typical four-movement symphony. It was originally written for a string quartet (two violins, a viola, and a cello) but has been arranged for many other ensembles since its creation.

Let's look at each movement individually to better understand its form and key areas:

1. Allegro

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