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8.557023 - MOZART: Serenades No. 6 and 13, 'Eine kleine Nachtmusik' / Divertimento No. 10
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Eine kleine Nachtmusik • Divertimento in F major • Serenata Notturna
As a child Mozart had enjoyed phenomenal success, travelling through Europe and, with his sister Nannerl, performing for kings and queens, the nobility and others able to afford the spectacle. His father Leopold Mozart, Vice-Kapellmeister to the Archbishop of Salzburg, had taken good care of his only surviving son’s education and musical training, and had managed his career at the expense of his own.
In December 1771 the Mozarts’ patron, the Archbishop, had died and was succeeded early in the following year by a less sympathetic churchman, the reformist Count Hieronymus von Colloredo, a son of the Imperial Vice-Chancellor. The new Archbishop shared the feelings of the Imperial family on the activities of the Mozarts, who seemed to bring no credit on their employers by “travelling around like beggars”. The concert tours that had brought some profit and distinction to the family were to be curtailed, and Mozart was for a few years to be more or less confined to the narrow limits of Salzburg, in a position that he and his father found quite unworthy of his genius. Nevertheless in Salzburg there was work to be done, music to be written and played.
In 1777 Mozart was to set out, accompanied only by his mother, to seek his fortune in Mannheim and in Paris, an abortive journey, during the course of which his mother died. Mannheim in particular, with its virtuoso orchestra, provided a stimulus to his work. Before this, however, Salzburg had provided the occasion for a number of compositions, including the Serenata notturna and the two Divertimenti sometimes known as the Lodron Nightmusic, occasional pieces to celebrate the name-day in 1776 and 1777 of Countess Antonia Lodron on 13th June. The Countess, born Arco, a name we meet in the accounts of Mozart’s later dismissal from the Archbishop’s service in 1781, was the wife of the hereditary marshal of the court, and a leading patroness of music in Salzburg. The Mozarts were on visiting terms, however deferentially, and Leopold Mozart and his son had joined the Lodron’s party at a fancy dress ball in February, 1776, Leopold Mozart as a porter and his son as a barber’s boy.
It was during the winter that Mozart had written the Serenata notturna, K. 239, completed in January, 1776, and clearly designed for some Salzburg social occasion. The work is scored for a concerti no of single strings, two violins, a viola and a double bass, and a body of ripieno strings and timpani, an arrangement which, bar the drums, must remind us of the form of the Baroque concerto grosso.
The first movement of the Serenata is a stately March, in which the smaller and larger groups of instruments are contrasted. There follows a Minuet, and a Trio played by the concertino, leading, after the repetition of the Minuet, to a final Rondo that includes episodes of possible topical reference. Within the framework of the repeated principal theme comes a solemn Adagio, the music of a country dance and a brief and unexpected plucking of strings, before the lively conclusion.
The Divertimento in F major is scored for two horns and strings, and was completed in June, 1776, for Countess Antonia Lodron’s name-day It starts with a lively movement in all the clarity of classical first movement form. This is followed by a C major Andante grazioso and a first Minuet returning to the key of F, with a contrasting D minor Trio.
The next movement, marked Adagio and in the key of B flat, is scored only for strings, the first violin taking the lead. The second Minuet, in F, with a B flat Trio for the strings alone, leads to a final movement with a slow introduction and a varied concluding rondo, all well suited to the occasion of the composition
Eine kleine Nachtmusik, the Serenade in G, K 525, comes from a later period of Mozart’s life. In 1781 Mozart, who had returned from Mannheim and Paris to the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg, accompanied his patron on a visit to the Imperial capital, Vienna. There he finally broke with his employer and secured his dismissal from the archiepiscopal court. In Vienna there seemed every opportunity, which it seemed his patron was deliberately preventing him from seizing.
The last ten years of Mozart’s life were spent in Vienna, without the presence of his father to guide him and without the kind of secure patronage that he had hoped to gain at court. An imprudent marriage brought its own difficulties, but Mozart, nevertheless, won some immediate acclaim, both in the theatre and as a performer on the fortepiano, popularity which waned, but had begun to revive at the time of his sudden death in December, 1791.
Eine kleine Nachtmusik was written in August, 1787, a few months after the death of Leopold Mozart in Salzburg, while Mozart was preparing his new opera, Don Giovanni, for performance in Prague. The occasion of its composition is unknown, but the work would have been suitable for domestic performance. Originally including a first Minuet, now lost, the Serenade opens with music as lucid and cheerful as anything Mozart wrote, followed by a Romance of charm and ingenuity, a spry Minuet and a final Rondo, a conclusion to the remarkable series of Serenades and Divertimenti on which Mozart had embarked twenty years before, as a ten-year-old.
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