Divertimento No.1

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Divertimento No.1 in Eb major


About this work

Mozart wrote the first draft of this work during his second childhood visit to Italy; the inscription at the head of the score is by Mozart's father, Leopold, and it's likely that the father had a hand in this work, as he did for so many other early Mozart compositions. Here we find Mozart's first use of clarinets, instruments he would come to employ whenever they were available (they were not yet standard items in the orchestra). Mozart later concocted a separate wind score involving pairs of oboes, English horns, and bassoons; perhaps this was intended to replace the original clarinet-horn scoring for Salzburg performances, but scholars also speculate that Mozart wanted the extra winds to bolster the existing full score, perhaps for performance during a subsequent visit to Italy. In the original form, Mozart gives a concertante role to the two woodwind pairs in each movement.

First comes a breezy Allegro, something of a jumble of solo instruments -- not merely the wind pairs, but also strings, especially the first violin. It's a perky, slightly caffeine-jittery piece in a compact sonata-allegro format. Mozart's habit of tossing the music around the orchestra a few bars at a time makes the themes sound more disjointed than they truly are.

The Andante begins with a particularly serene theme for clarinets, accompanied by the low strings and modest horn echoes. Bridge material for the entire orchestra leads to a slightly altered repeat of the section, and substantial transformations of the music that has been established that aren't quite significant enough to count either as full variations or new themes.

The Minuet -- unusually for a Mozart divertimento, there is only one -- proceeds according to period conventions, with clear links to the ballroom, and a melodically smoother trio section in G minor. The concluding Allegro starts with a three-note motto similar to what Mozart would soon be using in his early trio of string serenades. This launches a rondo in which the three-note figure punctuates outbursts worthy of Italian opera buffa.