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Hyperion Records

CDA67386 - Mozart: Divertimenti K247 & 334
Recording details: December 2002
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: October 2003
Total duration: 74 minutes 35 seconds


'A thoroughly delightful disc' (The Daily Telegraph)

'The playing thoughout is a delight: easy, perceptive, recognizing the subleties with a light touch, fresh and well balanced, with the conversational quality of the best chamber music. A highly enjoyable disc' (International Record Review)

'The Gaudier players, drawn from the ranks of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, past and present, treat these urbane works in the spirit in which they were composed: both to delight the untutored ear and to move the hearts and souls of connoisseurs' (The Sunday Times)

Divertimenti K247 & 334
Allegro  [8'27]
Andante grazioso  [2'59]
Menuetto  [3'44]
Adagio  [6'50]
Menuetto  [3'03]
Allegro  [9'58]
Adagio  [6'32]
Rondo: Allegro  [8'49]

Two hundred years ago a German musicologist came within an ace of inventing the term 'easy listening', and applied it in his definition of divertimento, a loose term that avoided the more serious connotations of symphony or sonata. It is typical of that impish cheek we now know so well in Mozart, that he was perfectly able to serve his most profound music in the ironic guise of divertimento, as with K563 (Hyperion CDA67246).

The present earlier works [both for two horns and strings] show something of the same disposition, since it is very likely that they were occasion pieces, for occasions—possibly outdoors—at which we can imagine that the audience had other social concerns on their mind; thus he fills the music with quirky turns and shifts as well as moments so beguiling we can imagine a sudden hush descend upon the chatterers!

Wonderful music, here in superb performances by The Gaudier Ensemble, that take us back in time and out of our everyday bothers.

Other recommended albums
'Beethoven: Songs' (CDA67055)
Beethoven: Songs
'Fauré: Piano Quartets' (CDA66166)
Fauré: Piano Quartets
'Liszt: Missa Choralis & Via Crucis' (CDA67199)
Liszt: Missa Choralis & Via Crucis
'Simpson: Symphony No 9' (CDA66299)
Simpson: Symphony No 9
'Xenakis: Choral Music' (CDA66980)
Xenakis: Choral Music

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
’Divertimento’ was an extremely popular musical title in mid-1700s Austria and southern Germany, an inclusive name, it would seem, for any instrumental work that could not be classed as a concerto or a symphony. ‘Divertimento’ would often be preferred to ‘Sonata’, a name that may have carried more serious connotations and suggested something less bright and elegant. Joseph Haydn described many of his early keyboard sonatas as divertimenti. Much later, H C Koch, in his Musikalisches Lexikon of 1802, defined ‘divertimento’ as music to please the ear, rather than expressing different shades of emotion. He added that the term was applied to music that eschewed contrapuntal elaboration and was not extensively developed in the manner of a sonata – the eighteenth-century equivalent of easy listening.

In Mozart’s output, ‘divertimento’ appears as the title of works for varied groupings of wind and/or stringed instruments; apart from the late Divertimento for string trio, K563, these all pre-date his move to Vienna in 1781 (though the divertimento style lived on in the three great wind serenades of the Viennese years (K361, K375 and K388), the string serenade Eine kleine Nachtmusik (K525), and the pieces for three basset horns (K439b). Between 1775 and 1780 he wrote two types of divertimento – short works for wind sextet, and four more extended compositions involving string and two horns, plus, in one case (K251), an oboe. Like nearly all Mozart’s music these were designed initially for specific occasions, and the three written for the same grouping of strings and horns (K247, K287, K334) also share a common six-movement form, framed by an opening sonata Allegro and a concluding rondo, the inner movements comprising two contrasting minuets, an Andante, and an Adagio for strings alone. This was the form that Mozart returned to in 1788 for the Divertimento for string trio, and which was then taken over by Beethoven in his Op 3 Trio, his Septet, and his Op 130 String Quartet. The Septet, in its turn, provided the model for Schubert’s Octet.

The F major Divertimento K247 was written for Countess Antonia Lodron’s name-day celebration in June 1776. The Lodron family were important members of Salzburg’s aristocracy, and had provided a notable seventeenth-century archbishop, Count Paris Lodron. Antonia Lodron was the sister of the current Archbishop Colloredo, and an accomplished keyboard player. Mozart wrote the Concerto in F, K242 for her and her two daughters, who were both pupils of Leopold Mozart. In one letter Leopold writes about the Countess’s ‘usual insincere friendliness’, but it is clear that the Mozarts found her more sympathetic than her brother, and would ask her to sound out the Archbishop on their behalf, for example with regard to Wolfgang’s future employment at the court.

The D major Divertimento’s origins are not quite so certain. Mozart refers to it as his ‘Robinig’ music – the Robinig von Rottenfelds were a well-to-do Salzburg family, and friends of the Mozarts; several of the family travelled to Munich in 1781 to attend the premiere of Idomeneo. It is most likely that K334 was composed to celebrate the successful completion of Sigismund von Robinig’s jurisprudence studies, in July 1780.

Both Leopold and Wolfgang refer to these works as ‘Cassations’. The term is a rather mysterious one; its derivation may be from ‘Gasse’, meaning ‘alley’, and so denoting music to be played outside in the street – there is certainly one reference in the Mozart letters to an outdoor performance of K247 and K287. But most performances seem to have taken place indoors, and though these are occasional works they were highly regarded by Wolfgang and his father. In an impatient letter to Wolfgang in Mannheim, written on 11 December 1777, Leopold castigates his son for not presenting himself in the best light in order to further his career at the Electoral Court: ‘Could you not have performed in Mannheim your Haffner music … or one of your Lodron serenades?’ This implies that Leopold considered K247 and K287 among Wolfgang’s finest compositions, as well as a desire that he should appear as a violinist as well as a keyboard virtuoso. On 4 July 1781, Mozart, newly dismissed from the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg, writes from Vienna to his father: ‘I badly need the three cassations – those in F [K247] and B flat [K287] would do me for the time being – but you might have the one in D [K334] copied for me and sent on later …’. Here Wolfgang is, perhaps trying to propitiate his father (who was alarmed by the intemperate way his son had pursued and terminated his argument with the Archbishop) with the suggestion that he was keen to resume his exploits as a violinist. Once again, however, the reference is to three works of which father and son are particularly proud. Violinists can indeed regret that Mozart, in Vienna, did not put himself forward as a violinist, and add to the beautiful concertos he had written in 1775, or continue to compose works like these divertimenti, with elaborate solo first violin parts. But the divertimenti do point the way forward to the great string quartets and quintets of Mozart’s Viennese period, with their rich, constantly varied textures, beautiful part writing that sustains the musical invention throughout the ensemble, and their flexible, dramatically animated formal outlines. The music stays just within the boundaries of pleasing, relatively undemanding entertainment, but it certainly merits, and repays, the listener’s close, concentrated attention. As Mozart famously described his first Viennese Piano Concertos (K413–415):

… a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear and natural, without being vapid. There are passages here and there from which the connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction; but these passages are written in such a way that the less learned cannot fail to be pleased, though without knowing why.

The F major Divertimento K247 begins, like an eighteenth-century symphony, with a strong sense of animation and forward motion, with sudden dynamic contrasts. This first sentence also introduces the first violin as the ensemble’s soloist, and is immediately followed by a unison repeated-note motif, whose last notes are heard again as a picturesque echo. It is this idea that dominates the movement; the repeated notes appear frequently as an accompaniment feature or as part of different melodic ideas. The complete motif returns later on as a charmingly accompanied violin melody, and in the development section its echo pendant is passed around the stringed instruments. Mozart chooses the motif, too, to effect the return to the home key, and to inaugurate his recapitulation, only coming back to his opening gesture right at the end of the movement.

The following Andante grazioso shares its key (C major), mood, and instrumental textures (though not its rhythmical character) with the Andante of Eine kleine Nachtmusik. The simple binary form is extended with a coda, where, after a short episodic excursion, the opening idea is beautifully enriched and elaborated. The first of the two minuets is formed from alternating short phrases, forte and piano. To begin with, the alternations are quite formal, the dynamic contrasts pointed by having the full ensemble interspersed with the strings alone. But after a while Mozart disrupts the pattern he has set up, getting the horns to contribute to a quiet phrase, having the two violins on their own, and extending some of the loud phrases to double their expected length. A short solo for the horns introduces the minor-key trio; a feature that might seem like a purely functional transition until we hear the unexpected and witty way it is used later on.

The B flat major Adagio is, like the slow movements of many of Haydn’s earlier quartets, designed as a violin solo. The dominating triplet movement creates a gentle, dreamy, serenade-like atmosphere, not dissimilar to the mood of the Adagio of the G major Violin Concerto, K216, composed the previous year. These pervasive triplets take different forms; they appear sometimes as part of the melody, or as a repeated chordal accompaniment, or with a variety of subsidiary ideas in the inner parts. At several points the second violin and viola combine in octaves, creating a striking, memorable sonority. And the places where the triplets cease, at the end of each main section of the movement, serve to make the form clear at the same time as providing touching, intimate points of concentration. The second minuet is full of colour and surprise, its bright, quirky mood enhanced by the prominent horn parts. The melody at the start features a folk-like sharpened fourth degree of the scale. Unexpected cross-rhythms alternate with suave, courtly phrases, and each section is rounded off by a sequence of four plucked chords. The trio, in the key of B flat and without horns, harks back, with its expressive violin solo, to the preceding Adagio.

The finale has a short Andante introduction whose solemnity makes one, for a moment, think forward to Sarastro in The Magic Flute. The main part of the movement is a lively, compact rondo, whose episodes revisit in turn the main key centres of the work: C major, D minor, B flat major. The rondo theme makes use of an F major arpeggio, allowing the natural horns in F to play a prominent thematic role. One of the most beautiful touches comes in the final bars, when this figure, always heard before in unison, is now given a soft, undulating accompaniment, and is presented in imitation, with the bass answering the horns and first violin.

If the F major Divertimento, which Mozart wrote in his twenty-first year, has a freshness and sense of excitement, stemming from the young composer’s realisation of the full extent of his powers of invention and organisation, the D major Divertimento K334 of four years later has a relaxed self confidence, reflected in the spacious design of the outer movements, and in a particularly powerful concept for the whole work – the first three movements are all based on inspiring upwardly striving themes, whilst for the last two the melodic ideas start at a high point and move downwards. The effect of Mozart’s grand scheme is enhanced by the noble sound of the lower-pitched horns in D. The Divertimento starts quietly, however, with the strings alone, and when the horns come in at the first forte, it is with their own new motif (Mozart repeats this idea at the start of the finale).

Another feature of the Divertimento, giving Mozart an extra resource in filling out his expansive designs, is the important role allotted to the second violin, often given the task of introducing subsidiary ideas. In this opening movement the second subject and the closing passage of the exposition are both announced by the second violin. If Mozart himself played the difficult leader’s part at the first performance, could it be that Leopold played second violin? Another remarkable thing about K334’s first movement is its development section, during which the horns are silent. Beginning with a sudden modulation to a remote key (F major), the way back to the home key lies through a maze of rapidly shifting chromatic harmonies. Here, Mozart is certainly bewildering the ‘less learned’ amongst his listeners, whilst no doubt delighting the ‘connoisseurs’.

The following Andante with variations also pushes at the boundaries of the divertimento form by being in a minor key. The tone is kept fairly light, through such ideas as the unison pizzicato presentation of the theme as accompaniment to the violin’s brilliant final variation, and the glowing, serenade-like colours of the major-key variation, where the horns assume the main thematic burden. But there are also plenty of the dark shadows typical of Mozart’s minor-key music – agitated syncopations, expressive chromatic harmonies, and impassioned, declamatory melodic lines. The first minuet takes us back to D major. In the early twentieth century this was one of Mozart’s best-known pieces, the suave elegance of the slurred pairs of notes that make up its melody seeming just as persuasive an evocation of eighteenth-century aristocratic manners as the gentle syncopations of the famous Boccherini minuet. Mozart was to return to this mood and to use a very similar texture, with viola doubling the violin line an octave lower (but without the delightful effect of the horns), in the trio of the minuet in his D minor Quartet, K421.

The A major Adagio contrasts a detached, declamatory opening with the cantabile continuation on the violin. Soon, however, the two styles are combined, with the second violin leading an accompanying string trio. The whole movement impresses by its rich elaboration, the extravagant decoration of the melodic line supported by continually varied patterns in the lower instruments. The robust second minuet, with its memorable, strongly rhythmic theme and lively accompaniment, has two trios, both in a minor key. Even in the minuet itself there is a mysterious minor-mode episode, as though Mozart is recreating in miniature the contrast between D major and D minor of the Divertimento’s first three movements. And in the B minor second trio the pattern is reversed, a soft horn call appearing to push the music back to D major, followed each time by a return to the minor key.

The final Rondo is very different from the one in K247, though its key-plan and sequence of events are quite similar. Instead of the short repeated sections of the earlier movement, repeats here are written out and varied. And instead of the sharply contrasting characters of each succeeding episode, the impression here is broader, with a spacious pastoral character. Along with the six-eight metre, this suggests a parallel with the finale of Mozart’s last instrumental work, the Clarinet Concerto. Even if we see Mozart’s final works as moving towards a new, more romantic style, it is fascinating to realize how many aspects of his later achievements are already present in the period of his early maturity.

Duncan Druce © 2003

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