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8.550108 - MOZART: Salzburg Symphonies
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Divertimento in D Major, K. 136
Divertimento in B Flat Major, K. 137
Divertimento in F Major, K. 138
Divertimento in D Major, K. 205
In 1772 Mozart was again at home in Salzburg. His first journeys abroad, at the age of six, had brought him great fame as an infant prodigy, and with his sister he had performed w hat seemed miracles of technique and musicianship for one so young. An extended tour took the Mozart family away from Salzburg for three and a half years, during which time they attracted the curiosity of audiences in Paris, London, Holland and throughout Germany. Late in 1769 Mozart left Salzburg with his father for his first visit to Italy and there he enjoyed similar success, now being able to fulfil a commission for an opera, Mitridate, re di Ponto, which was performed in Milan on Boxing Day, 1770. After five months In Salzburg, Mozart returned once again to Italy, where his Serenata, Ascanio in Alba, was to be performed for the wedding of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and Maria Beatrice d’Este, a princess of Modena.
Mozart and his father returned to Salzburg once more in the middle of December, 1771. Next year, before they set out again for Italy, the English musician Dr. Burney was reporting that Wolfgang Amadeus was one more example of “early fruit being more extraordinary than excellent”. There were others ready to agree that Mozart’s early virtuosity had led to nothing, and in practical terms they may have been right. In late December the Mozart’s patron, the Archbishop of Salzburg, Count von Schrattenbach, had died, to be succeeded by Count Hieronymus von Colloredo, a zealous but unsympathetic ruler, who was to employ Molart for ten more years at his court, until a quarrel led to his dismissal in 1781.
The last decade of Mozart’s life was spent in precarious independence in Vienna, with early success, but no secure position and no adequate patronage. As a boy he had been famous. As a young man, however successful he might appear on brief journeys abroad, at home in provincial Salzburg he had felt slighted and undervalued, while the establishment in Vienna seemed to have nothing to offer that might match the ambitions that he and his father had nurtured.
The three so-called Divertimenti, K. 136, K. 137 and K. 138, sometimes known with rather more accuracy as the Salzburg Symphonies, have about them more of the latter than the former. A Divertimento was generally in a series of five movements and these three-movement works conform to the model of the Italian form of symphony. Since they were written in Salzburg early in 1772, they may well have been intended to serve a symphonic purpose during the coming journey to Italy, when wind parts could have been added, as required. They precede, in any case, a series of string quartets written in Italy later in the same year, and may themselves be played as quartets, although once again their three movements suggest another aim.
The first of the set, in D major, is a model of classical clarity, its first movement, in the usual tripartite sonata form, followed by a moving Andante. The final movement finds a place for counterpoint in its central development, adding a further dimension to music of concertante brilliance.
The second work, K. 137, in B flat major, opens with a gentler movement, in the expected form, and this is followed by a rapid Allegro di molto and a final Allegro assai of extreme clarity.
The last of the group, K. 138, in F major, with a classical first movement and a C major slow movement in similar form, closes with a brilliant rondo of transparent texture, an example of a perfection of art in which technical mastery is masked by simplicity of genius.
The Divertimento in D major, K. 205, is true to its name. It was completed in Salzburg probably in July, 1773, before a journey to Vienna, and probably intended as a tribute to Maria Anna Elisabeth von Antretter, wife of the Salzburg Court War Counsellor, for whose son Mozart was to write a celebratory Serenade later in the year, to mark the completion of his university studies.
Scored for two horns, a single violin line, viola, with bassoon, cello and double bass, the Divertimento opens with a slow introduction, leading to an Allegro that varies briefly in mood. The first Minuet has a contrasting G major Trio for the strings alone, and is followed by a slow movement in which the viola is given a fairer share of melody than is often the case. The Trio of the second Minuet allows the French horns some initial prominence, and this leads to a final movement full of witty allusion and variety well suited to the occasion for which it was presumably designed.
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