Symphony No. 35

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Symphony No. 35 in D major

K385 • “Haffner”

Recommended recording

Curated by Mary Elizabeth Kelly, Primephonic Curator

About this work

By mid-1782 Mozart had been a Vienna resident for more than a year, beginning to prosper from the success of his new singspiel, The Abduction from the Seraglio. Yet Leopold Mozart refused to bless his marriage proposal to Constanze Weber, and thought nothing of disrupting his son's professional life. In the midst of preparations for the first all-Mozart concert in Joseph II's imperial capital, Papa insisted that Wolfgang compose a new work for the ennoblement of Salzburg's mayor, Sigmund Haffner. In other words, a gratis job, unrelated to Wolfgang's new career and income. The wonder is that Mozart obliged posthaste, despite being harried. Between July 20 and August 5 he wrote the new D major serenade-symphony in six movements (not to be confused, however, with an earlier Haffner Serenade, K. 250). During the same fortnight he also made a wind-band arrangement of music from The Abduction ("If I don't do this, someone else will beat me to it and take my profit"), composed the noble C minor Serenade for winds (K. 388/384a), and married Constanze without Leopold's permission.

Six months later, needing a new symphony for further concerts in the Burgtheater, Mozart remembered that Leopold had pestered him for a piece and asked for its return. Papa of course took his mean-spirited time, but finally did send it. Upon receipt Wolfgang wrote that "the music has positively amazed me, for I had forgotten every single note it!" He dropped one of the Serenade's two minuets (subsequently lost) and a concluding march, then added a pair each of flutes and clarinets in movements 1 and 4, and offered K. 385 as a new piece. He conducted the first performance in Vienna's Royal Burgtheater on March 23, 1783. To Papa he wrote that "the theater could not have been more crowded...every box was full. But what pleased me most of all was that His Majesty the Emperor was present and, goodness! -- how delighted he was and how he applauded me!"

Celebratory pomp suffuses the concisely argued, monothematic sonata-form, Allegro con spirito movement without exposition-repeat. Everything relates to the main theme with its two-octave leaps, dum-dum-da-dum-dum rhythm, skirling trills and racing scales.

A sinuous song and trio with translucent textures and operatic ornamentation for the violins makes the G major Andante the longest movement if all repeats are played. The trio silences flutes, clarinets, and trumpets, yet begins with marvelously sonorous wind chords. Low strings carry the melody until violins take over with more trills, birdcalls, and galant-period embellishments, after which the song repeats.

The Menuetto movement -- not four minutes long even with repeats -- is emphatically rhythmic, and countrified rather than courtly in the song sections. Contrastingly, the trio is played legato throughout.

The final Presto is sonata form again, even more concise than in the first movement. Although Mozart wanted it played "as fast as possible," he still meant slower than the capability of most twentieth century instruments.