MOZART: Serenades and Divertimenti
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Eine kleine Nachtmusik Divertimento in F major Serenata Notturna
As a child Mozart had enjoyed phenomenalsuccess, travelling through Europe and, with his sisterNannerl, performing for kings and queens, the nobilityand others able to afford the spectacle. His fatherLeopold Mozart, Vice-Kapellmeister to the Archbishopof Salzburg, had taken good care of his only survivingson's education and musical training, and had managedhis career at the expense of his own.
In December 1771 the Mozarts' patron, theArchbishop, had died and was succeeded early in thefollowing year by a less sympathetic churchman, thereformist Count Hieronymus von Colloredo, a son ofthe Imperial Vice-Chancellor. The new Archbishopshared the feelings of the Imperial family on theactivities of the Mozarts, who seemed to bring no crediton their employers by \travelling around like beggars".
The concert tours that had brought some profit anddistinction to the family were to be curtailed, andMozart was for a few years to be more or less confinedto the narrow limits of Salzburg, in a position that heand 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 onlyby his mother, to seek his fortune in Mannheim and inParis, an abortive journey, during the course of whichhis mother died. Mannheim in particular, with itsvirtuoso orchestra, provided a stimulus to his work.
Before this, however, Salzburg had provided theoccasion for a number of compositions, including theSerenata notturna and the two Divertimenti sometimesknown as the Lodron Nightmusic, occasional pieces tocelebrate the name-day in 1776 and 1777 of CountessAntonia Lodron on 13th June. The Countess, bornArco, a name we meet in the accounts of Mozart's laterdismissal from the Archbishop's service in 1781, wasthe wife of the hereditary marshal of the court, and aleading patroness of music in Salzburg. The Mozartswere on visiting terms, however deferentially, andLeopold Mozart and his son had joined the Lodron'sparty at a fancy dress ball in February, 1776, LeopoldMozart as a porter and his son as a barber's boy.
It was during the winter that Mozart had written theSerenata 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, twoviolins, a viola and a double bass, and a body of ripienostrings and timpani, an arrangement which, bar thedrums, must remind us of the form of the Baroqueconcerto grosso.
The first movement of the Serenata is a statelyMarch, in which the smaller and larger groups ofinstruments are contrasted. There follows a Minuet, anda Trio played by the concertino, leading, after therepetition of the Minuet, to a final Rondo that includesepisodes of possible topical reference. Within theframework of the repeated principal theme comes asolemn Adagio, the music of a country dance and abrief and unexpected plucking of strings, before thelively conclusion.
The Divertimento in F major is scored for twohorns and strings, and was completed in June, 1776, forCountess Antonia Lodron's name-day It starts with alively movement in all the clarity of classical firstmovement form. This is followed by a C major Andantegrazioso and a first Minuet returning to the key of F,with a contrasting D minor Trio.
The next movement, marked Adagio and in the keyof B flat, is scored only for strings, the first violintaking the lead. The second Minuet, in F, with a B flatTrio for the strings alone, leads to a final movementwith a slow introduction and a varied concluding rondo,all well suited to the occasion of the compositionEine kleine Nachtmusik, the Serenade in G, K 525,comes from a later period of Mozart's life. In 1781Mozart, who had returned from Mannheim and Paris tothe service of the Archbishop of Salzburg, accompaniedhis patron on a visit to the Imperial capital, Vienna.
There he finally broke with his employer and securedhis dismissal from the archiepiscopal court. In Viennathere seemed every opportunity, which it seemed hispatron was deliberately preventing him from seizing.
The last ten years of Mozart's life were spent inVienna, without the presence of his father to guide himand without the kind of secure patronage that he hadhoped to gain at court. An imprudent marriage broughtits own difficulties, but Mozart, nevertheless, wonsome immediate acclaim, both in the theatre and as aperformer on the fortepiano, popularity which waned,but had begun to revive at the time of his sudden deathin December, 1791.
Eine kleine Nachtmusik was written in August,1787, a few months after the death of Leopold Mozartin Salzburg, while Mozart was preparing his new opera,Don Giovanni, for performance in Prague. The occasionof its composition is unknown, but the work would havebeen suitable for domestic performance. Originallyincluding a first Minuet, now lost, the Serenade openswith music as lucid and cheerful as anything Mozartwrote, followed by a Romance of charm and ingenuity,a spry Minuet and a final Rondo, a conclusion to theremarkable series of Serenades and Divertimenti onwhich Mozart had embarked twenty years before, as aten-year-old.Keith Anderson