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Mozart - Symphony No. 35 in D "Haffner"

Let me 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 Haffner 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. 

Writers 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. 

The First 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, Kamo, Whangarei 0101, Northland, New Zealand


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