“I played the last [Divertimento] om B-flat until they all stared. I played like I was the greatest fiddler in Europe.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, letter to Leopold Mozart, Sept. 30, 1777
What’s in a name? Among the hundreds of works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart you’ll see lists of Divertimentos, Cassations, Serenades, and other titles that are often used interchangeably.
Modern-day scholars suggest calling them all one thing: “Party Music,” e.g., multi-movement works – often played outdoors – and designed to accompany a social gathering. As Mozart expert John Burk puts it, “Popular music in the 18th century did not have, as now, a separate category of composers. Mozart was called upon at any moment to provide any music whatsoever, from the most solemn Mass to the lightest stage entertainment; music for concerts, music for dancing. Music by the yard for social functions did not in the least bother him.”
In fact, Mozart seemed to excel at it – his so-called Divertimentos are often anything but trifling music. As Burk notes, “He [Mozart] neither wrote above the heads of his audience, nor did he demean his art. Often he gave his patrons not only surface charm, but undying beauty of detail…”
Back in 2016, Heifetz alum and 2016 Artist in Residence Itamar Zorman (currently on the faculty of the Eastman School of Music), opened his Heifetz Sunday Matinee mini-recital with a beautiful rendition of the sublime Adagio movement from Mozart’s Divertimento No. 15 that was later arranged for violin and piano by the violinist and pedagogue Jerrold Rubenstien.
Itamar, a prize winner of the 2011 International Tchaikovsky Competition, is joined by pianist Alexander Tentster in this exploration of what musicologist Alfred Einstein called Mozart’s “lost paradise of music.” There are more videos of Itamar’s remarkable recital in Francis Auditorium here and here, as well as his performances from our Summer 2020 series of Alumni Showcases on Rubato: The Heifetz Virtual Concert Hall. Enjoy! – and don’t forget to subscribe below!
“The Divertimento No. 15 is the most familiar today, and probably deserves the attention it gets, because of the sustained quality of all its six movements, and its depth of expressive detail….The Adagio…is one of the finest of the divertimento slow movements.” – John N. Burk, Mozart and His Music