Mozart Divertimento no. 3 in E flat, K. 166

performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Wind Ensemble, or below by Ensemble Zefiro, apparently on period instruments

(cover image by Diego Botero)

I just want to point out that 1773 was a relatively busy year for the young Mozart, in his mid-teens. There’s quite a lot that comes from this single year, and it may appear that some of these early works we’re covering aren’t entirely in chronological order, but really, we are splitting hairs when we get down to talking about a matter of weeks or months. The Köchel catalogue, it should not surprise you, is not 100% chronological, perhaps because we later discovered that works were mis-ordered, dated incorrectly, etc.

Today’s work is the second of two divertimenti for ten winds; we discussed the first a few weeks ago. This piece contains a specific date on the autograph score, March 24, 1773. It’s scored for pairs of oboes, English horns, clarinets, horns and bassoons. Heavy on the double reeds. I like it.

The work is in five movements and has a duration of around 12 minutes:

  1. Allegro
  2. Menuetto
  3. Andante grazioso
  4. Adagio
  5. Allegro

This is exactly the same order and almost exactly the same marking as the K. 186 divertimento, which I really must admit was not a very exciting work, if I may dare say. This work has slightly more charm, or maybe I’m just in a better mood (which is unlikely, because I suddenly feel the beginnings of a cold coming on, maybe). There’s a clear distinction between the two themes of this first movement, the second being gregarious and very pleasing. Pay attention not just to Mozart’s use of double reeds (oboes and English horns blending nicely), but specifically how he handles the bassoon. The timbral contrast of horns, which (maybe just in this recording) give the ensemble a larger, more spacious sound, is nice.

They feature strongly in the minuet, too, giving some greater heft to the already more rustic sounding dance. This is, at least in the Vienna recording, the longest movement of the piece, with a trio that gives English horns the spotlight; Wikipedia mentions that it is indeed a true trio, for three actual instruments.

The andante features an oboe and English horn pairing, playing an octave apart. “The main theme of the Andante grazioso,” says Wiki, is “an almost literal transcription of an operatic sinfonia by Giovanni Paisiello.” Horns join this ‘graceful’ movement and echo what’s already been stated. It’s quite pastoral.

The adagio is the shortest movement in this recording. It’s almost drone-like, with long, chorale-like notes that hang in crystal-clear mid-air. Speaking of mid-air, there are a few stratospheric high notes for the horns.

The finale, only moments longer than the previous movement, is bouncy and jovial. There’s a sound here that I feel is so perfectly suited to the brightness and bucolic tone of woodwinds with the addition of the horn. This may not be anything really special in any grand sense, but this is a delightful little finale.

That’s all for Mozart today, folks, but don’t you worry. There’s more to come, as I’ve said for weeks, so stay tuned for that and thanks so much for reading.

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