Divertimento, for chamber orchestra (2017)

Duration: 20 minutes

Instrumentation: 2 flutes (2nd doubles piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (2nd doubles bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings

Premiere: January 19, 2018 by c/o chamber orchestra at the Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche, Schöneberg in Berlin, Germany


The term divertimento has a kind of double meaning for me. Its most obvious meaning refers to a diversion, or light entertainment, and there is a rich tradition of charming pieces in this vain. On the other hand, there are masterworks by Mozart, Schubert, and Bartok, to name a few, which bear the same title. While there is certainly something light, or humorous, or whimsical, about these great divertimenti, these works are also undeniably profound and ambitious in their own way. In fact, there is a king of profundity that comes from these sorts of pieces that begin with humble forms or ideas and transcend them over the course of the piece. I find this paradox fascinating and kept returning to the concept throughout composing my own divertimento.

Divertimento is scored for chamber orchestra and contains four movements. The first movement is brisk and rhythmically propulsive, the relentless energy only pausing for a moment on a set of mysterious chords before diving right back into familiar material. The second movement, aria burlesca, is all about contrasts between the graceful and the grotesque. Sometimes the contrasts follow or interrupt each other, other times they are layered on top of one another. The third movement is a pompous minute with an unassuming trio section. Finally, the last movement begins with a delicate chorale followed by a vigorous fugal gigue. At the peak of the movement, the chorale returns in the winds while the string continue with the gigue. After a brief recall of the first movement, the piece comes to an animated conclusion.