Divertimento, in Italian, means “entertainment,” or “diversion.” Although composers in the latter part of the eighteenth century used the term as a title for instrumental pieces whose primary purpose was to be light, pleasant, and entertaining, great composers like Haydn and Mozart sometimes just couldn’t help themselves, and wrote divertimentos of great beauty and depth. Divertimentos—or divertimenti, in Italian—usually have more than four movements—sometimes as many as ten, in fact—and often include minuets, marches, and theme-and-variation movements. The number of instruments varies from three to ten, and those instruments may be strings, winds, or combinations of the two. The term “serenade,” by the way, is virtually interchangeable with the term divertimento. The original meaning of serenade, or serenata, in Italian, was “evening song,” a song to be sung by a suitor under his beloved’s window. Instrumental serenades and divertimentos dispensed with the requirement for love and windows, but the implication of outdoor performances remained, and divertimentos were often performed in conjunction with meals or other festivities.
A Minute with Miles - a production of ETV Radio made possible by the JM Smith Corporation.