The term "Divertimento" (Italian) denotes a work primarily designed for the entertainment of both the listeners and the performers. The divertimento was popularized in the Classical period byHaydn, Boccherini, and Mozart. This is a neo-classical work constructed around modal tonalities, but it cannot simply be defined as a modernist work or a strictly neoclassical work. One of the most evident neoclassical characteristics is the treatment of texture. Frequently, a small group of soloists contrasts the whole orchestra, greatly varying the work's texture. This is reminiscent of the Baroque genre of the Concerto Grosso, where a small group of soloists, the concertino, was contrasted and accompanied by the tutti orchestra, or the ripieno. While baroque tonality comes within reach, the work is for the most part tonally modernistic. Dynamically, the work features sharp contrasts. The work also utilizes the fugal elements of imitation, fugato, and contains a three voice fugue.
Bartók's Divertimento is scored for string orchestra: Violin I, II, Viola, Violoncello, and Double Bass, all of which contain divisi sections. Unlike the majority of orchestral scores, the minimum number of players in each string section is specified: 6 1st Violins, 6 2nd Violins, 4 Violas, 4 Violoncellos, 2 Double Basses.