About this Recording
8.553225 - MOZART: Kleine Nachtmusik (Eine) / Serenata Notturna / Divertimenti

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)

Serenade No.13 in G major, K. 525 Eine kleine Nachtmusik
Serenade No.6 in D major, K. 239 Serenata nottuma
Divertimento in D major, K.136 (Salzburg Symphony No.1)
Divertimento in B flat major, K. 137 (Salzburg Symphony No.2)
Divertimento in F major, K. 138 (Salzburg Symphony No.3)
Serenade in D major, K. 286 Nottumo

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a court musician, Leopold Mozart, author in the same year of an important book on violin- playing and later Vice-Kapellmeister to the ruling Archbishop of Salzburg, in whose service he spent his entire career. Leopold Mozart was quick to perceive the exceptional musical gifts of his son and saw it as his god-given duty to devote himself to fostering them, providing him with sound musical training and a good general education.

Mozart spent much of his childhood travelling to the major musical centres of Europe, where he amazed those who heard him by his musical precocity, performing at the keyboard with his elder sister, Nannerl, the only other surviving child of his father's marriage. Journeys to Italy involved commissions for opera, but the death of the old Archbishop and succession of a much less sympathetic prelate in 1772 curtailed travel, while adolescence in Salzburg brought its own dissatisfactions. Mozart thought he deserved something better, an opinion in which his father heartily concurred.

In an effort to find a more congenial position, Mozart left Salzburg in 1777, spending time at Mannheim, where he made friends with some of the musicians employed in what was then one of the most famous orchestras in Europe, and moving thereafter to the original goal of his journey, Paris. France, however, proved disappointing, and by the beginning of 1779 he was back again in Salzburg, reinstated in the service of the Archbishop, but chafing under the restrictions of his position and the lack of wider opportunity.

In the later months of 1780 Mozart was permitted to travel to Munich for the preparation of a new opera, Idomeneo, commissioned through his Mannheim friends by the Elector of Bavaria, who now held court there. From Munich, after successful performances of the opera in January 1781, Mozart was summoned by his patron to Vienna, where his position in the household of the Archbishop seemed to deny him the manifold opportunities of a brilliant career that Vienna appeared to offer. A quarrel with his patron resulted in ignominious dismissal and a final career of ten years in Vienna which brought initial success. Mozart established himself as a composer of opera, at first for the new German opera and then for the Italian opera to which the Emperor had been compelled to return, with Le nozze di Figaro in 1786 and Don Giovanni in 1787, the year of his father's death. He organised subscription concerts, at many of which he appeared as soloist in new piano concertos of his composition, and attracted many pupils. His marriage in 1782 to an impecunious cousin of the future composer Carl Maria von Weber brought its own problems and he was frequently in financial difficulty in his last years, although there were signs of a change of fortune in the great popularity of his last German opera, Die Zauberflöte, which was playing in a suburban theatre at the time of his sudden death on 5th December 1791.

It was during the winter of 1775 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 concertino 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.

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. 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.

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 live 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 Notturno for four orchestras, K. 286, has no precise date, but has been attributed by some to December 1776 or January 1777, and written, perhaps, for carnival in Salzburg. It is, in any case, clearly incomplete, consisting of only three movements, the last of them a Minuet, to which a later Trio was added. The four identical orchestras, the second, third and fourth having the functions of an echo, consist of a pair of horns and strings. The first movement embarks at once on the provision of diminishing echoes, as the repetitions of the opening phrase become even more fragmentary, the first echo unable to reproduce more than a few bars of one of the more extended declarations of the first orchestra. The same procedure is followed in the Allegretto grazioso and to some extent in the Minuet, with its rival pairs of horns following close one group on the other, while the Trio appears in the surviving source, a copy once in the possession of Mozart's biographer Otto Jahn, scored only for four string parts, without apparent added echo.

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