Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Serenade No. 12 for winds in C minor ("Nacht Musique"), K. 388 (K. 384a)

    Description by Brian Robins

    As was also the case with his contemporaries, Mozart composed relatively little music in minor keys. When he did so it was almost always with specific purpose, and in forms that we would today consider "serious" -- the string quartet, the symphony and concerto. How then are we to account for a serenade (Mozart's own rubric for K. 388, unlike the Wind Serenade in E flat, K. 375, which he left untitled) in the minor mode composed for wind instruments? After all, the serenade was traditionally a work for light, relaxed entertainment on ceremonial or civic occasions. Those composed for wind band, or Harmoniemusik, in particular were associated with outdoor entertainment -- pieces to be casually overheard rather than listened to intently. Yet there is every evidence that after he settled in Vienna in 1781, Mozart took the genre seriously; all three wind serenades he composed during 1781 and 1782 are major works that far transcend the normal modest ambitions of such works.

    The composer himself told his father Leopold in a letter that he had taken particular care over the E flat Serenade, although this may be because he was hoping to impress the Emperor Joseph II, who in the spring of 1782 had formed his own Harmoniemusik consisting of eight, rather than the usual six, performers. We know a fair amount about the genesis of that work and its revision from sextet to octet; virtually nothing, however, is known about Mozart's motivation to compose of the C minor Serenade other than the fact that it dates from much the same period as K. 375, July 1782 -- the date on Mozart's own autograph manuscript. Was it perhaps also designed in the hope of making an impression on the new Emperor (Joseph had been on the throne only two years)?

    Whatever the reason, this radical work -- with its stormy, explosive opening Allegro, and "learned" canonic Minuet, and its contrapuntal complexity -- was totally out of keeping with then-current expectations for the genre, and one can only guess at the composer's reasons. Mozart never mentioned the work in his correspondence, and no documentary evidence relating to it has yet emerged. Like the revised version of K. 375, it is scored for the octet forces of Joseph's Harmoniemusik -- pairs of oboes, clarinets, horns and bassoons.

    That Mozart himself was obviously aware of the serenade's unusual and atypical character (and perhaps quality) may be gauged by the fact that several years later, probably in 1788, he arranged it for a very different genre, transforming it into the String Quintet in C minor, K. 406 (K. 516b).

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro
    2. Andante
    3. Menuetto in canone
    4. Allegro

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Lawo Classics LWC 1141
    2017 Supraphon SU 42142
    2015 Decca
    2014 Newton Classics 8802172
    2014 RCA Red Seal 88843006072
    2013 Decca 4785437
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099995681
    2012 Warner Classics
    2012 Sony Classical 88697964462
    2012 La Dolce Volta LDV 1124
    2010 Decca
    2010 Decca
    2009 Denon Records
    2008 Meridian Records 84548
    2008 EMI Classics 3361512
    2008 Nimbus 5812
    2008 Everest EVERCD 001
    2008 Decca 4580962
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 Naim 117
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921530
    2008 Philips 4646602
    2007 COE 242
    2007 EMI Classics 87894
    2006 COE / COE Records CDCOS507
    2006 Teldec
    2006 Sony Classical Essential Classics 82876884552
    2006 Novalis 150729
    2006 Orfeo 644061
    2006 COE Records 802
    2006 Onyx ONYX 4012
    2006 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 4775222
    2006 Philips
    2005 Warner Classics 2564623352
    2005 Harmonia Mundi 2961570
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 002894775280
    2005 Brilliant 92540
    2004 Teldec / Warner Classics 4608662
    2004 Calliope 3317/9
    2004 Naxos 8557361
    2003 Philips 472678
    2003 CPO 999822
    2003 EMI Classics
    2003 EMI Classics
    2003 NY Philomusica Records 30014
    2002 Hyperion 55092
    2002 CBC Records 5053
    2002 Calliope 9304
    2002 Naxos 555943
    2001 ASV 242
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 567647
    2000 Testament 1180
    2000 Philips 464 790-2PB11
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 56502
    1999 Signum UK 9200
    1999 Philips 446226
    1998 London 455 794-2LC3
    1998 Sony Music Distribution 60115
    1998 Novalis 150151
    1997 Arcobaleno 94132
    1997 Harmonia Mundi 901570
    1997 Astree 8573
    1997 Arts Music 47279
    1996 Harmonia Mundi 911583
    1996 Hyperion 66887
    1996 Sony Music Distribution 62412
    1996 EMI Music Distribution 69392
    1996 Everest 9026
    1995 BIS 186
    1995 Chandos 9284
    1995 Orfeo 134851
    1995 Philips 446 222-2PB25
    1995 Rondo Grammofon 8336
    1994 Amati AMI 9305/1
    1994 Harmonia Mundi 1903051
    1993 Deutsche Grammophon
    1993 Deutsche Grammophon 4395242
    1992 Simax 1037
    1992 Vox 5014
    1990 Philips 422505
    1989 Teldec 43056
    BMG 62571
    Philips 422500
    Factory Classics 406
    Brilliant 92627
    Brilliant 92627/13
    Arabesque 6650
    Teldec
    Emergo 3983
    ASV 802
    Deutsche Grammophon 431689
    Teldec 903172481
    Sony Music Distribution 47295
    Harmonia Mundi 2981570
    RCA 60873
    Forlane 16619
    L'Oiseau-Lyre 417249
    Opus 3 9203
    Testament 1365
    ASV 413