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ClassicsOnline Home » MOZART, W.A.: Divertimento in E-Flat Major, K. 563 (Kraggerud, Tomter, C. Richter)
At the peak of his powers, but beset by cash-flow problems brought on by living beyond his means, Mozart composed his famous String Trio, K. 563 for his friend, fellow-mason and creditor Johann Michael Puchberg. While labelled ‘Divertimento’, this masterful six-movement work is one of Mozart’s most substantial pieces for string trio and one of his greatest works. The Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud, who has made a number of highly-praised Naxos recordings, joins prize-winning compatriot Lars Anders Tomter (who has recorded the Walton Viola Concerto for Naxos) and acclaimed German cellist Christoph Richter.
By Donald R Vroon
American Record Guide
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Divertimento in E flat major, K. 563 • String Trio in G major, K. 562e
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart never succeeded in obtaining the position of Kapellmeister, director of music at any court. In Vienna the reason undoubtedly was that Emperor Joseph II only had a limited comprehension of his ‘modern’ music. Part of the nobility also felt compromised by the staging of The Marriage of Figaro, which expressed criticism of the order of society, but the political situation also contributed to the decrease in demand. The German Holy Roman Empire was at war with Turkey, the economy suffered, and the nobility left Vienna to participate in the war or moved to their country residences.
Outside Vienna, though, the interest in Mozart seemed to be stable, or even increasing. In 1789 the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm II offered him regular employment in Berlin, but Mozart preferred to stay in Vienna, and when he no longer aroused the interest of novelty from the nobility there he had to adapt, selling, for example, more copies of his music and performing more for the middle class. A great part of his income also came from his operas, which brought a fee from the theatre. For the two performances of Don Giovanni in Prague in 1787 and Vienna in 1788, he earned 675 Gulden (guilder), which was close to the annual income of musicians in regular employment. The complete annual income of Mozart for each of the years from 1787 until his death was no less than about 3000 Gulden. He was thus far from being the poor musician expelled from society presented by popular legend. Mozart was happily married to Constanze Weber, with whom he had six children of whom only two survived. His daughter Theresia died at the age of only six months on 29 June 1788.
Briefly stated, this was the situation of the 32-year old Mozart, when he wrote the famous Trio K. 563 in the autumn of 1788, a work that, unusually, was not commissioned, but was a present for his friend and fellow-mason Johann Michael Puchberg (1741–1822), who is mostly known by posterity for lending Mozart money. Puchberg was manager of a great textile company, and after the director’s death he married the latter’s wealthy widow. Why did Mozart need to borrow money if his income was sufficient? The reason was that he and Constanze lived in higher society and at times their expenditure for clothing and other luxuries exceeded their income. Constanze’s increasing spending on medicine and cures contributed to this. There is also much evidence that Mozart accumulated a considerable gambling debt. At the time, playing card games or billiards was a natural part of life. Billiards, in particular, was popular among people of high rank, and participation in the game was a social necessity. Gambling debts were a matter of honour and, as Mozart wrote to Puchberg on 27 June 1788, his reputation would be jeopardized if he could not pay. Thus, it was for extraordinary expenditure that Mozart borrowed money. The largest amount was in 1787, when he borrowed and later repaid 1000 Gulden. From the period between June 1788 and June 1791, 21 so-called begging letters to Puchberg have been preserved. Compared to 1787, the amounts in question were small: 1415 Gulden in total. Mozart was not poor, but sometimes he was in acute need of money.
Mozart also composed two piano trios for Puchberg, perhaps commissions (K. 542 in June 1788 and K 564 in October 1788), and he sent him free tickets for the performance of the three ‘summer’ symphonies in the autumn of 1788. Puchberg was a ‘true friend’. On 29 December 1789 Mozart invited him to a rehearsal of Così fan tutte: ’I invite only you and Haydn’. After Mozart died, Puchberg became the guardian of Mozart’s two children, and he waited several years to reclaim his balance of 1000 Gulden from Mozart’s widow. During the Napoleonic wars Puchberg lost his fortune, and he died in poverty.
Mozart wrote a number of string quartets, but only two string trios, and a further one that was unfinished. The first, K. 266 from 1777, was written for two violins and double bass when he was 21 years old. Eleven years later he wrote the famous K. 563 and the unfinished K. 562e, both for violin, viola and cello. The absence of a second violin demands a richer individual sonority from the instruments and, unlike in the string quartets, each instrument has a strong individual voice. It is tempting to relate this kind of equality to the public demands of the time for more freedom and equality compared to the privileged nobility. Mozart was an eager supporter of the ideas of the Enlightenment, and his book collection contained several political journals and Enlightenment novels. The French Revolution was soon to come.
The unfinished K. 562e is, like the first movement of K. 563, written in sonata form. Mozart only began the development section. Why the trio was not completed is a mystery. Alfred Einstein believed that K. 562e was a stepping-stone towards K. 563, one of Mozart’s most ‘noble’ works. As in most of Mozart’s masterpieces, a broad palette of moods is present, happy, light and playful and sad and expressive.
K. 563 is labelled Divertimento, entertainment music that presents a mixture of movements in sonata form and dance-like movements, especially minuets. In a divertimento the composer was free to decide the number of movements and the setting. K. 563 has six movements and a duration of about fifty minutes, thus exceeding the standard trio length. Musically, it is far from pure entertainment. The first two movements in particular, written in sonata form, are among the most sonorous and masterful examples of chamber music ever written. The first is an Allegro and the second a beautiful and lyrical Adagio, which appears less of a contrast. The four other movements are somewhat lighter. The third movement, a fiery and lively Minuet, is written in the manner of a Ländler, an Austrian peasant dance. The fourth movement is an air, a songlike Andante, consisting of a folk-music theme with four variations. The fifth movement is an Allegretto Minuet, starting with a courtly dance leading to two trios each in the style of a different cheerful Ländler. The sixth movement is a Rondo, marked Allegro, that ends with hornlike fanfares. The cheerful principal theme of this movement resembles that of K. 595, Mozart’s last piano concerto, and the well-known song Sehnsucht nach dem Frühlinge, K. 596, one of the three songs that Mozart composed in January 1791 for his fellow-mason, the publisher Ignaz Alberti.
K. 563 was completed on 27 September 1788, and, as mentioned, was dedicated to Puchberg. It is unlikely, however, that he attended the performance of the work on 13 April 1789 at a private concert in Dresden. Mozart was travelling with Prince Carl von Lichnowsky, a son-in-law of Count Thun, one of the few noblemen in Vienna with whom Mozart still had a friendly connection. Travelling with a man of this position naturally brought further expense, which did nothing to improve Mozart’s financial situation.
On 16 April 1789, in a letter to his wife Constanze, Mozart reported that he had managed to put together a quartet at the Hotel de Pologne, where they stayed. After an unexpected invitation to play at court: ‘We played in the chapel with Antoine Tayber (who, as you know, is organist here) and Herr Kraft, Prince Esterházy’s cellist, who is here with his son; then I gave the trio I have made for Herr von Puchberg—it was performed quite well…’. The setting for this performance was a distinguished one, presumably the première of K. 563. Anton Teyber (1756–1822) had since 1787 been the court organist in Dresden. Anton Kraft (1749–1820) was one of the greatest cellists of the time, employed by Prince Esterházy, at whose court Joseph Haydn was Kapellmeister. In 1783 Haydn wrote his famous Cello Concerto in D major for Kraft. When Mozart met Anton Kraft in Dresden, he was on a concert tour with his eleven-year old son Nikolaus Kraft in northern Germany. Mozart was not the only child prodigy who went on concert tours with his father in the second half of the eighteenth century.
In adolescence Mozart was an excellent violinist. In the Vienna years, after 1781, he played mainly the piano, but on private occasions when string quartets were performed, he played the viola. As such, he performed occasionally, with Haydn playing the first violin part. At the private performance of the Trio K.563, Mozart played the viola, Teyber the violin and Kraft the cello. In the same concert, the talented Prague singer Josepha Duschek sang arias ‘from Figaro and Don Juan’.
The following day Mozart played at court in Dresden the piano concerto later known as the Coronation Concerto. The Elector of Saxony, Friedrich August III, normally did not receive touring performers, but in this case he made an exception. Besides the present of a snuff-box, Mozart was paid 100 Ducats (= 450 Gulden) for this one concert, testimony to his status as a musician.
Ingrid F. Andersen
Author of ‘Mozart. Who was he?’ 2006
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