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Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

I'm brand-new here, so I apologize if this has already been discussed, but I've always been curious about that title. It sounds to me like "a small night music", which seems awkward. I'd be more inclined to call it "Ein Bisschen Nachtmusik". But was that "ein klein" form, to refer to a small amount of something, standard in Mozart's time? Did the "ein bisschen" form even exist then? Does anybody know? Thanks!

January 27, 2018



Nachtmusik was a translation of the italian word Serenade (not my translation but Mozarts). Also it should be noted that back then the word Musik was used like nowadays Musikstück is used (so you could say Musik has lost one of its previous meanings in modern german). Bisschen doesnt make sense in this context. It is one thing and not a bit of something. So it should be indeed klein and not bisschen.


OK, that makes sense now. I was wondering if there was an archaic usage in there somewhere, but I wasn't thinking about the noun. Thank you!


Wow, somehow I didn't see this comment earlier. Thanks!


Welcome, someguy! That's an interesting question! I've never thought of that.

Saying "eine kleine Musik" is really a little weird. It would rather be "ein kleines Musikstück", similar to "ein kleines Gedicht". But then the "kleine Nachtmusik" consists of several pieces of music ...

Really interesting. I'll try to find an answer, or perhaps someone else has a good idea.


in english it is titled ‘a little night music’


And in French "une petite musique de nuit", literally the same :) A little piece of music… (un petit morceau de musique).

  • 1612



Right --that's why "ein bisschen" sounds more correct to my American, high-school-German-trained ears.


I always wondered whether the title was meant to sound kind of cute or sweet to the ears. Titles of artworks aren't necessarily chosen based on grammatical correctness. No idea, though. Great question. And happy birthday, Mozart!


PS--I just looked up the entry for the piece in my Mozart edition (the big fancy one that came out from DG a year or two ago) and they quote Leopold Mozart as talking about the simplicity of the work and about how something so simple can be so effective. I'm really not an expert, but it made me wonder whether "eine kleine" could be highlighting the simplicity of the work as well as its brevity? "Little" in more ways than one. Just a wild guess, though.


...on the other hand, I'm working with Babbel right now and they just gave me the sentence "Ich würde gern mal ein kleines Duett komponieren" ("I'd like to compose a little duet"), so maybe it's just what you say. Although I'm not sure how German has changed since Mozart's day, or even who titled the piece in question, so ¯_(ツ)_/¯

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