Mozart - Symphony No. 35 in D "Haffner"
try to get this straight - this symphony got its nickname, “Haffner”, on
account of a serenade written in 1782 to celebrate the elevation to the
nobility of Sigmund Haffner. However, this serenade was not your actual
Serenade (K250): that was written six years earlier for a marriage
in the same family. So why, one wonders, does this symphony, rather than
the latter serenade, pick up the nickname? The reason, it transpires, concerns
money. Mozart was usually a bit silly where his finances were concerned,
but suffered an unaccustomed excess of acumen in the train of this serenade.
In those simple days before copyright law took its stranglehold, anyone
with the appropriate skills could cash in on a successful bit of music.
Mozart, aware that his serenade might be a “hit”, got in first with a wind
band arrangement, and further capitalised with a hurried rejig (including
enlarging the instrumentation) of four of the movements to form the Symphony
No. 35. The nickname, it seems, was just a bit of advertising “hype”
to cash in on the topicality of its content.
often mention the unseemly haste with which this symphony was born, inciting
the conclusion that it is consequently “sub-standard” Mozart. Nothing,
surely, could be farther from the truth. The symphony effectively gestated
during the composition of the serenade, its movements fully realised, and
hence coordinated to his usual standard, in that context. For a man
of Mozart's extraordinary fluency, the final bit of midwifery would have
been an absolute doddle.
Movement (allegro con spirito) reflects the celebratory nature of original
serenade, opening on a grandiloquent gesture answered by a gentle phrase
on violins. The exposition is pursued with such vigour and inventiveness
that the listener may find amusement in playing “spot the second subject
buried amongst all the hustle and bustle”. Unusually, the Second Movement
(andante) is not a variation, but a ternary form, its identical outer
sections contrasting an elegant, lyrical flow with some of those prim,
“pecked” marching phrases so characteristic of Mozart. Reflecting the relatively
simple requirements of a serenade, the Third Movement is a bog-standard,
no-frills menuetto, with trio. It's perhaps a bit strait-laced, but that's
the nature of the dance. The Finale (presto), showering sparks of
darting energy, zips through a full sonata form in a mere four minutes,
an extended coda being tossed in for good measure.
© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street,
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