MOZART: Divertimenti, K. 131 and K. 287 (Capella Istropolitana/ Harald Nerat/ Karol Kopernicky) (Naxos: 8.550996)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Divertimento in B Flat Major, K. 287
Divertimento in D Major, K. 131
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 his eider 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 his 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 Divertimento in B flat major, K. 287, is scored for two horns and strings and was completed by 13th June 1777 in time for the celebration of the name-day of Gräfin Antonia Lodron in Salzburg. This was the second occasion on which Mozart had provided a serenade for the Countess and the work is, in consequence, commonly known as the Zweite Ladronische Nachtmusik (Second Lodron Serenade). The Salzburg court official Joseph Ferdinand von Schiedenhofen recorded in his diary a visit to the Mozarts on the afternoon of 13th June, when the music had been rehearsed, to be performed for the Countess three days later. In the autumn Mozart left Salzburg on his journey to Mannheim and Paris. In Munich in October he was rash enough to invite the court orchestra violinist Dupreille, a pupil of Tartini, to join him and other friends in chamber music, but was sadly disappointed when Dupreille lost his place every few bars. Mozart took the opportunity of playing his Divertimento, playing, as he w rote to his father, as if he were the finest fiddler in all Europe and creating, he thought, a very good impression. Leopold Mozart thought highly of the work and was surprised that his son had not played it in Mannheim, where he was seeking a court appointment. It was played in Salzburg again in April 1788 and Leopold Mozart took pride in describing to his son, now in Paris, the pleasure it gave the listeners, with Kolb playing the first violin part: Countess Lodron herself eventually recognised w hat was being played, when it came to the theme and variations.
The first movement of the B flat Divertimento opens with a melody offered by the first violin, abetted by the second, which has something of the burden of the second subject, in music that ascends to the heights. The second movement, in which the B flat in alto horns are replaced by horns in F, has the theme itself in the first violin, followed by a first variation of semiquavers and syncopation. A rapider inner part figuration is used in the second variation, without horns, which return to introduce the third version of the material. The fourth variation divides chords in semiquavers and the fifth provides a gentler answer to the more forceful opening figure. The final variation is marked by embroidery of the material in notes of greater rapidity. A Menuetto, using again high B flat horns, frames a G minor Trio, leading to an E fiat major Adagio, in which the first violin is initially accompanied by muted second violin and viola and the plucked notes of the cello. A second Menuetto, in B fiat, has an E fiat Trio for strings alone. The last movement starts with a slower introduction, an Andante, that leads to a rapid Allegro that includes cadenzas for the first violin, the second a recitative, before a lively concluding section, again interrupted by a short cadenza. It was here, presumably, that Mozart in Munich was able to show his prowess on the violin, as Kolb did on more than one occasion in Salzburg.
The Divertimento in D major, K. 131, was completed by the beginning of June 1772, during the months between Mozart's second and third journeys to Italy, where there were commissions for dramatic works in Milan. The Divertimento is scored for flute, oboe, bassoon, four horns and strings. The first movement, with its delightful writing for woodwind, is in tripartite sonata-allegro form. The central development, repeated with the recapitulation, as is the opening exposition, has moments of drama. The A major second movement Adagio makes use of the strings only, a first violin melody gently accompanied. The strings have the first Menuetto to themselves, but here the first of the three Trios is played by the four horns, the second, in G major, by the woodwind and the third, in D minor, by woodwind and horns together, each Trio framed by repetitions of the D major Menuetto and capped by a final coda for the whole ensemble. The fourth movement, a G major Allegretto, is scored for woodwind and strings only. It is dominated by the principal theme, announced first by flute and violins and returning after the briefest of flute cadenzas that ends the contrasting central section of the movement. A second cadenza is allowed the first violin, when the thematic material is repeated. The second Menuetto is introduced by the four horns, the rest of the ensemble providing a central section. The first Trio, in G major, is for flute, violins, cello and bass, with the flute and first violin doubling in octaves. After a repetition of the Menuetto there is a second Trio, scored for oboe, two violas, cello and bass, a novel effect. The repeated Menuetto leads to a short coda for the whole ensemble. The last movement opens with an Adagio, movingly introduced by the horns, joined gradually by bassoon, flute and oboe. The Allegro molto starts with a first violin melody, accompanied at first only by the second violins. Upper strings introduce the second subject, which allows the flute some prominence, as it proceeds, answered by third horn and oboe. Touches of drama punctuate the central development, before the cheerful return of the principal subject. The whole movement ends with an Allegro assai in 318 metre, adding further variety to a work of compelling charm and subtlety.
The Capella Istropolitana was founded in 1983 by members of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, at first as a chamber orchestra and then as an orchestra large enough to tackle the standard classical repertoire. Based in Bratislava, its name drawn from the ancient name still preserved in the Academia Istropolitana, the orchestra works in the recording studio and undert