During the 18th century, it was common for noblemen to employ numbers of musicians to entertain themselves and their guests, and to add dignity and colour to occasions of Church and State. Music was frequently written to form a pleasant background to dinners and parties. Serious or complex music would clearly have been inappropriate for gatherings of this kind; it was the task of the composer to amuse the guests without overstepping his function and distracting them from the more important business of eating, drinking and making merry.
In these circumstances much music was produced which deserved no more than to be talked through; but composers of the ability of Mozart and Haydn responded with light music of a higher quality. The titles Divertimento, Cassation, Serenade and Notturno all refer to pieces of this kind. Elements of the old dances – allemande, courante, sarabande and so on – had fallen from favour, but the minuet was used a good deal and the style gallant was much in evidence.
Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields’ recording of Mozart’s most popular serenade – the ubiquitous Eine kleine Nachtmusik – made for Argo in 1970 has never been out of the catalogue, but the other works on this compilation, equally compelling, magically performed, have not, as often, seen the light of day on CD. Such is the case with the brief issue in Decca’s ‘World Of…’ series of the extended Divertimento KV 334 and the haunting Notturno for four orchestras, deploying extraordinary echo effects. These are complemented on this anthology with the Serenata Notturna, the three early Divertimenti KV 136–138, and the little-known but breezy Concertone opening the collection.
1- 3 Concertone in C major for two violins, oboe and cello, KV 190 (KV 186e)
Iona Brown & Carmel Kaine, violins
Tess Miller, oboe
Kenneth Heath, cello
4-6 Serenata notturna in D major, KV 239 12’38
7-9 Divertimento in D major, KV 136 (KV 125a) 13’19
10-12 Divertimento in B flat, KV 137 (KV 125b)
13-15 Divertimento in F major, KV 138 (KV 125c)
1-4 Serenade in G major, KV 525 ‘Eine kleine Nachtmusik’
5-10 Divertimento in D major, KV 334 (KV 320b)
11-13 Notturno in D major, KV 286 (KV 269a)
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Recording Producer: Michael Bremner
Balance Engineers: Michael Mailes, Colin Moorfoot (Serenata Notturna, Divertimenti KV136–138); Stanley Goodall (Concertone, Divertimento KV334, Notturno); Stanley Goodall, John Dunkerley, Dan Gosling (Eine kleine Nachtmusik)
Recording Locations: Kingsway Hall, London, United Kingdom, May 1967 (Serenata Notturna, Divertimenti KV136–138); St John’s, Smith Square, London, UK, October 1970 (Eine kleine Nachtmusik), September 1971 (Divertimento KV334), July 1972 (Concertone, Notturno)
‘Everywhere the orchestra offers the neatest and most stylish of playing; and this, coupled with good recording’ (Divertimento KV 334, Notturno) Gramophone
‘this is the most enormously enjoyable Mozart playing, obviously prepared with great care and carried out with the utmost artistry’ (Divertimenti KV 136–138, Serenata Notturna) Gramophone
‘The warm acoustic of St John’s … provides an aptly glowing atmosphere. A delightful disc’ [Concertone] Gramophone
‘… sweeps the board. The playing is marvellous, and Marriner’s choice of tempi is equally apt. The recording, rich in texture and detail, sounds admirably fresh here. … The sparkle of this music-making is irresistible.’ Penguin Guide to CDs