MOZART Divertimenti K247 and K334
How lucky the burghers of Salzburg, in Mozart’s day, who had such music as this to accompany their family celebrations! Or at least the rich ones. Mozart wrote a small group of divertimentos for strings and horns, for the local aristocracy (not including the archbishop, of course) during his later years there, to augment his salary and his prestige, and he did it with a mastery of technique that enabled him to find exactly the right blend of high spirits, warmth of expression and wit.
They have been recorded several times, of course, but nearly always with an orchestra rather than a solo group. In Austria, in Mozart’s time, the word ‘divertimento’ signified solo performance, and there’s a world of difference between what a sensitive solo fiddler can do with that top line and what a galumphing orchestra is able to do, in terms of technique, expressiveness and flexibility. Further, in these performances the bass part is played not by a cello but, as was preferred in Salzburg, a double bass, which provides a different relationship to the upper voices, and the one that Mozart clearly intended.
The Gaudier Ensemble catch the mood of the music perfectly. The elegant sentiment of the slow movements (there are two in each work) is happily conveyed – listen to the sweetness of violinist Marieke Blankestijn’s phrasing in the Adagio of K247 and her gentle, unassuming eloquence in that of K334. In the latter work the second violin is called on, too, for some degree of virtuosity, but it is to Blankestijn that most of the rapid and stratospheric music goes, and she copes with it in style. She also phrases the famous first minuet here gracefully. Mozart’s second minuets (each divertimento has six movements) are usually more rumbustious, with the horns prominent, and these too are heartily done, the K334 one almost too much so (and curiously they omit the second repeat in Trio 2). But altogether this is a delectable record.