Joseph Haydn:
Divertimenti (1784)

Trios for flute, violin and cello


Joseph Haydn
(Thomas Hardy, 1792)


Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) was a prolific and versatile composer, producing masterpieces in both the symphonic (including oratorios and masses) and chamber music genres. His long creative life spanned the many changes in musical style from the late Baroque to the mature Classical periods and in his late years he even foreshadowed 19th-century Romanticism.

From 1761 to 1790 he was Kapellmeister to the princely court of the Hungarian Esterházy family based at Eisenstadt and later at Esterháza. His duties included composing for and directing the orchestra, choir, solo singers and opera. From 1791 Haydn lived in Vienna and also made two highly successful trips to London for which his finest symphonies were written.

Apart from his symphonies, Haydn is well-known for his approximately 80 string quartets. He also wrote for smaller, more diverse combinations of instruments. His 6 Divertimentos a 3 (Op. 38) for flute, violin and cello were first published in London in 1784 by William Forster, a dealer and violin maker who purchased more than 120 compositions by Haydn.

It seems that Haydn had the option of a scoring with flute in mind while composing these works and they are the first chamber music by him to include a flute. The top part is indicated as being for “Violin I or Flute”, but it is significant that this part has no double-stops (unlike Violin II) and stays within the range of the flute.

The 6 Divertimentos a 3 (Op. 38) are chamber works of high quality and charm which bear out fully Haydn’s comment that

“in instrumental music my pure musical fantasies are usually given free reign”.

The Divertimento (which in Italian means amusement or recreation), along with the Cassation and Serenade, played an important role in the social and musical life of the middle classes in the second half of the 18th-century, particularly in South Germany and Austria. Composers such as Leopold and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Michael Haydn and Joseph Haydn have left us countless numbers of these types of works.

Some movements of these Divertimenti had already been used by Haydn in earlier works: the first two movements of Trio No.1 and the first movement of Trio No.2 are reworkings of music from his opera Il Mondo della Luna, and the three movements of Trio No.4 come from one of his Baryton trios.