Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Divertimento for string quartet (or string orchestra) in D major ("Salzburg Symphony No. 1"), K. 136 (K. 125a)

    Description by Michael Jameson

    Mozart's Divertimento in D major, K. 136 (K.125a) is the first of a group of works collectively known as the "Salzburg" symphonies. These works stands apart from Mozart's remaining symphonies, in that they are set for strings alone, rather than for the otherwise customary mixed instrumentation including winds. A further point which separates these compositions from Mozart's others in the symphonic genre, is that they are comprised of just three, rather than four individual movements, each lacking the usual Minuet. And lastly, the compact three-movement form further distinguishes the "Salzburg" symphonies from Mozart's true Divertimentos and Serenades, which were mulit-movement creations on a large scale, regularly spanning six movements and sometimes even more.

    In keeping with Classical conventions, works such as these for string orchestra could also be played by the four voices of the string quartet when the occasion demanded. Indeeed, a likely explanation for the origin of these so-called "Quartet Divertimentos" is to be found in the facts of Mozart's life at the time of composition, early in 1772. Mozart was then just 16 years of age, and already held the post of Court Concertmaster to Hieronymus Coloredo, Prince Archbishop of Salzburg. This period fell between Mozart's second and third visits to Italy, where he may well have found the impulse to compose works in the style of the three-movement Sinfonias and Concerti Grossi which had been popular since the times of Corelli. This, however, is still a matter of considerable conjecture, and besides, had these been pieces to be played exclusively by solo instrumentalists, Mozart surely would have considered them as true string quartets.

    Mozart's Divertimento (125a) seems indeed to closely mirror the style of the Italian concertos for strings, which he must certainly have encountered during his several visits to Italy. The work consists of a lively opening Allegro, in simple sonata form; a charming central Andante; and a brilliant concluding Presto. It is interesting to compare this work with its close companion in B flat, K. 137, which follows a slightly different general scheme, in which the main Allegro is placed second, and follows (unusually) a first movement headed "Andante." The brilliant inventiveness and virtuosity of the D major Divertimento is, to echo the words of Alfred Einstein (writing about another closely related work, Mozart's perennial Eine kleine nachtmusik, the Serenade in G, K. 525) "a masterpiece of masterpieces, on the smallest possible scale."

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro
    2. Andante
    3. Presto

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Supraphon SU 42032
    2016 Alpha ALPHA 246
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88985321742
    2015 Hungaroton HCD 32752
    2015 Alto MCSCD 1278
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMA 1951809
    2014 La Dolce Volta LDV 279
    2013 Entertainment Group 14176
    2013 Music & Melody / ZYX MUS 50172
    2013 Aliud Records ACDBE 0682
    2012 Entertainment Group 13005
    2012 Berlin Classics BER 300338
    2012 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 002894770055
    2012 The Entertainment Group 1077
    2011 Brilliant Classics 9010
    2011 ZYX CLA 101162
    2011 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2010 Philips
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Berlin Classics 0300031
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778680
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 477 868-0
    2010 Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / RPO 5
    2009 Oehms Classics 714
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records 00795041940926
    2008 JVC Compact Discs 24033
    2008 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon
    2008 ZYX Music 10319
    2008 Antes Edition / Zebralution
    2008 Philips 4646602
    2007 Music for Developing Mind / St. Clair 44462
    2007 Coviello Classics 30603
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    2007 ZYX Music 555352
    2007 Musical Concepts 131
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    2007 Kultur D4135
    2006 Music & Arts CD1187
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    2005 MediaTag 18
    2005 Warner Classics 2564623352
    2005 St. Clair 94342
    2005 Harmonia Mundi 987060
    2005 Brilliant 92540
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    2004 Laserlight 27776
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    1988 London 417741
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    1982 Hungaroton 12471
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