Symphony No. 35 in D major, K. 385, "Haffner"
Related Artists/CompaniesWolfgang Amadeus Mozart
National Symphony Orchestra: Christoph Eschenbach, conductor / Dvorák's "From the New World" Symphony, plus Mozart and an NSO debut - Jan. 23 - 25, 2014
Eschenbach leads Dvorák's Symphony No. 9, Mozart's "Haffner" Symphony, and a recent work by Avner Dorman featuring the NSO debut of young Austrian percussionist Martin Grubinger, "a master of the high-speed chase" (New York Times).
About the Work
The summer of 1782 was a tumultuous time for Mozart. He had just prepared the opera Abduction from the Seraglio for its premiere, and then he moved on to the task of arranging the score for winds ("otherwise someone will beat me to it and secure the profits instead of me" was how he explained the project in a letter to his father Leopold). He had also moved his residence, and was arranging his wedding to Constanze on the sly without tipping off his disapproving father quite yet. In the midst of all this activity, Leopold requested a new work in honor of the ennoblement of Sigmund Haffner, a boyhood chum of Wolfgang's and the son of the Salzburg Burgomaster. Mozart completed a first movement within a week, and sent subsequent movements in the following weeks. The work in that form was really a serenade - not to be confused with the "Haffner" Serenade, K. 250, written for an earlier Haffner family wedding - with an introductory march, an extra minuet movement and a smaller woodwind complement. Records are unclear as to whether the work was ever performed in Salzburg in its original form, but we do know that Mozart requested the score back from his father a few months later and reshaped it into what we now know as the Symphony No. 35.
Mozart set this work in D major, a regal key that brought out the brilliance of natural (valveless) trumpets and horns and the reverberant open strings. The festive Allegro con spirito opens with an ascending octave leap, and this motive continues as the main touchstone for the entire form. The following movement captures the spirit of the tempo marking Andante, meaning "at a walking pace," by coaxing the melody along with the nearly constant presence of 16th-note arpeggios or repeated notes. The Minuet emerges as a simple study in contrasts, posing a boisterous question with the ascending first phrase and then offering a coy answer with the delicate consequent phrase. The rondo Finale showcases one of the most fun aspects of Mozart's craft: his transitions back to the main theme. Mozart elides into the quiet but unmistakable descending triad motive in a different manner each time, first with ascending chromatic quarter notes, next with a dizzying run of eighth notes, and finally with a jocular bit of new material using chirping grace-notes.