- Aria cappricciosa 2. Intermezzo 3. Aria conclusa
The use of the word ‘divertimento’ usually implies a work that isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. Although this work is not, in fact, particularly light-hearted, one of my criteria for composing it was that I should allow the music to pursue its rather wayward path without too many conscious restrictions.
The first movement is perhaps the clearest example of this, moving from an elegiac C sharp minor through many abrupt changes of mood before returning to an echo of the opening. The intermezzo is characterised by shadowy, fleeting images, marked in the score “as if holding a conversation without wanting to be overheard”. The finale is ‘conclusive’, on one level, in that it rounds off the musical argument. But the work is open-ended, because the anticipated return of the opening does not materialize, and the final chord is not a resolution.
Divertimento was written at the request of Sir Peter Pears for the 1982 Aldeburgh Festival, and is dedicated to him. The first performance was given, at very short notice after the original performers dropped out, by members of Divertimenti under the direction of Oliver Knussen. The work, which also exists in an arrangement for double string orchestra, lasts just over 20 minutes.