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Divertimento No 17 in D major, K334
for two violins, viola, double bass and two horns

'Mozart: Divertimento & Oboe Quartet' (CKD376)
Mozart: Divertimento & Oboe Quartet
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'Mozart: Divertimenti K247 & 334' (CDA67386)
Mozart: Divertimenti K247 & 334
Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Thema mit Variationen
Track 8 on CDA67386 [8'21] Archive Service
Movement 2a: Thema: Andante
Movement 2b: Variation 1
Movement 2c: Variation 2
Movement 2d: Variation 3
Movement 2e: Variation 4
Movement 2f: Variation 5
Movement 2g: Variation 6
Movement 3: Menuetto – Trio
Movement 4: Adagio
Movement 5: Menuetto – Trio I – Trio II
Movement 6: Rondo: Allegro

Divertimento No 17 in D major, K334
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.

from notes by Duncan Druce © 2003

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Details for CDA67386 track 11
Menuetto – Trio I – Trio II
Recording date
12 December 2002
Recording venue
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Mozart: Divertimenti K247 & 334 (CDA67386)
    Disc 1 Track 11
    Release date: October 2003
    Deletion date: November 2013
    Archive Service
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