About this Recording
8.570990 - MOZART, W.A.: Divertimenti Nos. 11 and 17 (Cologne Chamber Orchestra, Muller-Bruhl)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Divertimento No 11 in D major, K 251 • Divertimento No 17 in D major, K 334


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a court musician who, in the year of his youngest child’s birth, published an influential book on violin-playing. Leopold Mozart rose to occupy the position of Vice-Kapellmeister to the Archbishop of Salzburg, but sacrificed his own creative career to that of his son, in whom he detected early signs of precocious genius. With the indulgence of his patron, he was able to undertake extended concert tours of Europe in which his son and elder daughter Nannerl were able to astonish audiences. The boy played both the keyboard and the violin and could improvise and soon write down his own compositions.

Childhood that had brought Mozart signal success was followed by a less satisfactory period of adolescence largely in Salzburg under the patronage of a new and less sympathetic Archbishop. Like his father, Mozart found opportunities far too limited at home, while chances of travel were now restricted. In 1777, when leave of absence was not granted, he gave up employment in Salzburg to seek a future elsewhere, but neither Mannheim nor Paris, both musical centres of some importance, had anything for him. His Mannheim connections, however, brought a commission for an opera in Munich in 1781, but after its successful staging he was summoned by his patron to Vienna. There Mozart’s dissatisfaction with his position resulted in a quarrel with the Archbishop and dismissal from his service.

The last ten years of Mozart’s life were spent in Vienna in precarious independence of both patron and immediate paternal advice, a situation aggravated by an imprudent marriage. Initial success in the opera-house and as a performer was followed, as the decade went on, by increasing financial difficulties. By the time of his death in December 1791, however, his fortunes seemed about to change for the better, with the success of the German opera The Magic Flute, and the possibility of increased patronage.

Mozart’s autograph of the Divertimento in D major, K 251, is dated July 1776, a period when he was still tied to Salzburg. It has been suggested that the work might well have been written to celebrate the name-day of Mozart’s sister, Nannerl, on 26 July to be played on the eve of St Anne’s feast-day. It has been pointed out that Mozart referred to this custom in a letter home from Paris in July 1778, when he expressed regret that he could not mark the occasion as he sometimes had done. A similar occasion is mentioned in the diary of the Salzburg court counsellor Johann Ferdinand von Schiedenhofen in an entry for 25 July 1777.

The Divertimento is scored for oboe, two horns and strings and starts in unison, before the first violin and oboe continue the melody in a ternary movement. The first of the two Minuets frames a G major Trio, scored for strings alone and with a dotted rhythm. This is followed by an A major Andantino, ending in a short Allegretto as the principal melody returns. The fourth movement is in the form of a Minuet and three variations, each of which is followed by the return of the theme. The variations are scored for strings alone, the first in running quavers, the second with triplets and the third with increased activity for the second violin. The fifth movement is a Rondeau and the whole work ends with a Marcia alla francese, a French march.

The Divertimento in D major, K 334, was probably written in Salzburg in the summer of 1779 or 1780. These years had seen Mozart’s reluctant return to Salzburg, after his journey to Mannheim and to Paris had brought no positive result. Once he had settled in Vienna, Mozart wrote to his father to ask him to send him a copy of the work, which he refers to as ‘die Musique vom Robinig’. Leopold Mozart, in his reply, tells his son that he does not have the piece, which may well be in the possession of the violinist Johann Fredrich Eck, a suggestion confirmed by Mozart himself in a further letter home. From these references it would seem that the Divertimento was written for Georg Siegmund Robinig, son of Georg Joseph Robinig von Rottenfeld, a prosperous Salzburg iron founder, duly ennobled. The Robinigs were family friends of the Mozarts and Georg Siegmund (Sigismund) would have had occasion in July 1780 to celebrate the successful conclusion of his studies at the University of Salzburg, a possible occasion for the present work. The Divertimento was first published in 1795 with only four of the movements, transforming it from a serenade to a symphony. It was published with all six movements in 1799.

Scored for two horns and strings, the Divertimento opens with a sonata-form movement, its second subject entrusted to the second violins. The second movement is a theme and variations in D minor. The first variation is in triplets, the second elaborates the theme and the third has a syncopated accompaniment, starting with imitation between the first violin and cello. The fourth variation gives the horns a little more prominence and the second violin presents the opening melody of the fifth. The sixth variation allows the first violin a display of demisemiquavers, leading to a short coda. The D major Minuet gives the melody of the first section to first violin and viola, accompanied by the plucked notes of second violin and cello. It is repeated after a G major Trio in which the horns are silent. There follows an A major Adagio, scored for strings alone. The original key of D major is restored in the second Minuet, framing a first Trio in D minor and a second Trio in D major. The Divertimento ends with a Rondo in which there are episodes that offer the first violin opportunities for display.

Keith Anderson

Close the window