Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Divertimento for violin, viola & cello in E flat major, K. 563 (1788)
3. Menuetto & Trio. Allegro
5. Menuetto & Trio I, II. Allegretto
Description by Michael Jameson [-]
Among the greatest works ever penned for the "difficult" combination of violin, viola, and cello, Mozart's sublime and masterful Divertimento for strings trio in E flat major, K. 563, dates from the miraculous summer months of 1788. Although plagued by debts (K. 563 is dedicated to Mozart's fellow freemason Michael Puchberg, who advanced a number of loans to the composer) and anxieties, and saddened by the premature death of his young daughter Theresia on June 29, Mozart produced a string of astounding works during this period, regardless of the adversity of his personal circumstances.
Although string trios were also written by Boccherini and the Haydn brothers, (and later by Schubert, Beethoven Reger, Dohnányi, and others) the genre almost invariably proves troublesome. The absence of a second violin requires that the harmonic texture be reinforced by viola and cello, placing demands upon the players who are often required to exploit extreme registers. Meanwhile, the violin parts are of virtuoso difficulty, and hence the string trio genre was not widely accepted by a musical public which had shown an insatiable appetite for Joseph Haydn's string quartets.
Mozart's Divertimento, K. 563, comprises six movements, the first of which, an Allegro in common time and regular sonata form, opens with a unison tonic descending arpeggio. The lyrical, soaring second subject theme is debated by violin and cello playing a sixth apart, but the labyrinthine fugal exchanges of the development section attain a depth and sonority that seems hardly credible given that just three players are involved. The A flat Adagio has a noble seriousness which echoes the slow movement of Mozart's Symphony No. 39, written earlier that summer. The roots of divertimento style in the popular entertainment music of Mozart's day are re-created in each of the two minuets, the second of which is remarkable for its two trios, in the form of an Austrian Ländler. These enfold a magnificent movement in variation form, an Andante in B flat, built upon a charming folk-like melody. By the time the final variation (a chorale theme played by the viola in half notes against a brilliant counterpoint between violin and cello, both playing running passages) is reached, the original theme is hardly discernible, although it returns in unmistakable form at the close of the movement. Mozart's K. 563 Divertimento ends with a brilliant Rondo in opera buffa style, which again places bravura demands upon each of the three players with its complex instrumental dialogue.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts Werke, Serie XV:
Duos und Trio für Streichinstrumente, No.4 (pp.19-44)
Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1882. Plate W.A.M. 563.