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Serenade No. 12 in C Minor K.388

Mozart called this piece a “serenade”, but it doesn’t sound like one, making it one of his most puzzling works. An 18th century “serenade” was supposed to be a work of light entertainment written in honor of someone or something, a lover, a friend, a person being honored, or a special occasion. “Serenades” were almost always written on commission. But this serenade, written in a minor key, has a dark tone and appears to have a serious purpose. Unfortunately, Mozart left us with no evidence regarding its genesis. Musicologist Alfred Einstein said, “We know nothing about the occasion, nothing about the person who commissioned it, nothing about whether this client desired so explosive a serenade, or whether that is simply what poured from Mozart’s soul.” None of this fog or speculation detracts one bit from the music. It’s quintessential Mozart through and through. So, we best forget what we don’t know about and enjoy it for what it is: a precious gift. After all, it does end in a flourish in bright C major.