The more common name of this landmark work from 1787 comes courtesy of Mozart’s obsessively organised side, a character trait about which we rarely hear. Despite possessing a brain that could remember music with 100 per cent precision, Mozart kept a detailed log of everything he’d written, just in case. The title 'Eine Kleine NachtMusik' is what he jotted next to the entry for this particular serenade written for a string quartet with an added double-bass. It’s another piece from his great purple patch. He was just thirty-one years old.
One frustrating by-product of Mozart’s personal catalogue of all his works is that we also know that there were originally five movements of this work, rather than the four that now survive. Oddly enough, Mozart never published 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik' in his lifetime. It was left up to his widow, Constanze, to sell it in a job lot of his music to a publisher in 1799, presumably to raise much needed cash. It saw public light of day only in 1827, some forty years after it was written.
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A minuet was a French courtly dance, of a somewhat stately nature, that was very popular among the aristocrats between the mid-17 th and late 18 th centuries. It was adopted into instrumental music where it often functioned as a light contrast between movements of a more substantial nature.