Serenade No. 6, K. 239, Serenata notturna – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Born January 27, 1756, in Salzburg

Died in December 5, 1791 in Vienna

This work is scored for a very unusual ensemble: a solo quartet of two violins, violas, and string bass on one side, and a larger group of violins, violas, cellos, and timpani on the other.  The term “notturna” in the title refers to a work performed in the evening. Late-eighteenth-century compositions such as the Divertimento, Serenade, and Notturno, were instrumental works with multiple movements used for entertainment at wedding receptions, family reunions, dinner parties and other festive gatherings, and they were performed as background music to the meal or to accompany the promenading of the guests as they exchanged greetings.

The character of the serenade was pleasant in expression and lighter in style than other multiple-movement works for large ensemble (such as, the symphony), with tunefulness being more important than thematic development or dramatic intensity.  It was a genre that Wolfgang Mozart, who adored parties, found particularly pleasant.  The serenades show Mozart’s ingenious ability for finding and incorporating a countless variety of pastoral expressions – allusions to sounds of nature, folk-song quotations, use of drones and horn calls, musical references to the hunt, and the extensive use of dance forms, all powerful associations of the pastoral.

Three compact movements comprise the Serenata notturna: a genteel march (with a timpani solo); a country-dance minuet; and a spirited rondo, one of whose episodes quotes two rustic melodies familiar to the people of Salzburg at the time.  Of this enchanting music, John N. Burk wrote, “For the most part, Mozart used simple means to please his casual listeners, capturing their attention with wit, attaining distinction with his sensitivity to balance and color, his lively and unfailing imagination…. He neither wrote above the heads of his audience, nor did he demean his art.”

– Program notes written by Silvia Santinelli, Co-Founder


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