Divertimento for String Orchestra (Bartók)

Divertimento for String Orchestra Sz.113 BB.118 is a three-movement work composed by Béla Bartók in 1939, scored for full orchestral strings. Paul Sacher, a Swiss conductor, patron, impresario, and the founder of the chamber orchestra Basler Kammerorchester, commissioned Bartók to compose the Divertimento, which is now known to be the pair’s last collaborative work.[1]

. . . Divertimento for String Orchestra (Bartók) . . .

The term “Divertimento” (Italian for “diversion”) denotes a work primarily designed for the entertainment of both the listeners and the performers. The divertimento was popularized in the Classical period by Haydn, Boccherini, and Mozart. This is a neo-classical work constructed around modal tonalities, but it cannot simply be defined as a modernist work or a strictly neoclassical work. One of the most evident neoclassical characteristics is the treatment of texture. Frequently, a small group of soloists contrasts the whole orchestra, greatly varying the work’s texture. This is reminiscent of the Baroque genre of the Concerto Grosso, where a small group of soloists, the concertino, was contrasted and accompanied by the tutti orchestra, or the ripieno. While baroque tonality comes within reach, the work is for the most part tonally modernistic. Dynamically, the work features sharp contrasts. The work also utilizes the fugal elements of imitation, fugato, and contains a three voice fugue.[2]

Bartók’s Divertimento is scored for string orchestra: Violin I, II, Viola, Violoncello, and Double Bass, all of which contain divisi sections. Unlike the majority of orchestral scores, the minimum number of players in each string section is specified: 6 1st Violins, 6 2nd Violins, 4 Violas, 4 Violoncellos, 2 Double Basses.[3]

Typically 8 minutes long, the opening movement is presented as a waltz with specific ‘gypsy’ influences evident melodically, through the use of various modes and non-traditional scales, and rhythmically, through the use of irregularly placed accents and extended syncopated rhythms. Metrically, the movement is set in shifting, regular compound meters that at times evoke both a clear or equally murky beat placement. The movement is presented in standard Sonata form in conjunction with Bartók’s attempt at a neoclassical work. Bartók’s homage to the Baroque period is clear in his treatment of orchestration in this movement. There is a clear contrast of textures between a small group of soloists and the tutti orchestra, reminiscent of the Baroque concerto grosso. The melodic material presented by the group of soloists is commonly imitative fugato. Bartók’s harmonic language throughout the movement is typically very chromatic and contains modal inflections. There are several spots within the movement where harmony seems to imitate common Baroque harmony, explicit evidence supporting the work’s neoclassicism.[4]

. . . Divertimento for String Orchestra (Bartók) . . .

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. . . Divertimento for String Orchestra (Bartók) . . .