Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his divertimento for string quartet and two horns, K. 522, in 1787, the same year that his opera Don Giovanni premiered. Mozart titled the four-movement piece, “Ein musikalischer Spaß,” which is usually translated as “A Musical Joke,” though a more accurate translation would be “Some Musical Fun.” It has long been thought that the work was meant to parody the compositions of lesser composers—in its annoying repetition of simplistic musical ideas, poor orchestration, and wrong keys—and the poor skills of many musicians of the era, in its seemingly out-of-tune playing and sloppy ensemble. (Indeed, the musicians seems to botch disastrously the very end of the work.) But Mozart has left us no clues as to his intentions in creating this innovative piece, which also pioneers the technique of polytonality adopted by later composers.

“Ein musikalischer Spaß” consists of these four movements:

  1. Allegro (sonata form), F major
  2. Menuetto and trio, F major (trio in B-flat major)
  3. Adagio cantabile, C major
  4. Presto (sonata rondo form), F major

Enjoy the recording of the work below! —Editor

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The featured image is a “silverpoint” drawing of Mozart by Dora Stock and is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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