Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Symphony No. 35 in D Major, “Haffner,” K. 385
(July-August 1782, as a six-movement serenade; rev. Dec. 1782-March 1783, as a four-movement symphony)
World Premiere (as symphony): 3/23/1783, Burgtheater, Vienna, composer cond.
Mozart’s 35th symphony began life as his second serenade for the Haffner family, minor nobility and longtime friends of the Mozarts. Wolfgang was asked in 1776 by Sigmund Haffner II, son of the mayor of Salzburg, to provide music for festivities the evening before the wedding of his sister, Marie Elisabeth (“Lisl”), to Franz Xaver Spaeth. The result: the famous, eight-movement “Haffner” Serenade (Serenade No. 7 in D Major, K. 250). So successful was this work that, when it came time for Sigmund to be ennobled six years later (1782), he called upon Mozart again to come up with another serenade. This time, as Mozart so colorfully put it, he was “up to my eyeballs in work”: completing his three-act Singspiel, “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” K. 384 (premiering that July 16 at the same Burgtheater as No. 35 would eight months later), teaching, and getting ready for his own wedding to Constanze Weber (which finally took place that Aug. 4, amid great chaos). By all accounts, Mozart completed the work, but missed the Haffner deadline. All was not lost, however: needing to come up with a new work for a December concert, he asked his father, Leopold, to send him the manuscript of his second Haffner serenade. Upon receipt, he was amazed how good it looked, given that he composed it in great haste, and he decided to remake the six-movement serenade into a four-movement symphony by dropping the opening March (still extant, as K. 385a) and one of the two minuets.
The festive, joyous Allegro con spirito first movement, in sonata form (with Mozart cancelling out the repeat signs for both exposition and development-recapitulation), is Haydnesque, with a single theme dominating the movement, which is to be played “with great fire,” according to Mozart. This theme, subjected to two variations, underlies the meandering secondary theme in the violins and rules the short development; it returns, in the recap, without its “relatives” (variations). The Andante second movement, in abridged sonata form (with a development more like a transition back to the main theme), has a charming, graceful primary theme and a more playful secondary theme; overall, there is a delicacy and intimacy to this movement, in contrast to the “fiery” first movement. The Minuet, with alternating loud-soft passages, sounds stately and formal, while the more dance-like Trio – like the the Minuet, in ternary form – acts as a Viennese street-song, flowing and chromatic. The finale – enriched, like the first movement, with the addition of flutes and clarinets (missing in the original) – is a moto perpetuo in sonata-rondo form that “go[es] as fast as possible” (Presto). Its constantly recurring principal theme resembles Osmin’s Act III comic aria, “O wie will ich triumphieren” (“O, how I will triumph”), from “Il Seraglio” — which, after all, was written at the same time as the “Haffner.”
Eerie postscript: Liesl died a year after the premiere of No. 35, after only eight years of marriage; Sigmund (born the same year as Mozart) died three years later, at 31; and Mozart himself died four years after that, in 1791, at 35. This Mozart-Haffner connection was most infelicitous for both sides!
Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C Major, “Jupiter,” K. 551 (August 1788)
World Premiere: Unknown if it was ever performed during his lifetime
This is the last of an unofficial triptych of symphonies (the others being Nos. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543, and 40 in G minor, K. 550) written in a short space of time (six weeks) for no known commission or even purpose. Usually chatty about his works, Mozart doesn’t mention them at all in his letters. Perhaps he was driven to write them down, then save them for a future occasion. Or there were commissions that fell through. Or they were for planned concerts the following winter that never took place due to his declining popularity (considered “passé” at the ripe old age of 35!), a view held by most of Vienna and fueled by Joseph II of Austria, who, despite awarding Mozart the position of Royal Court Composer on Dec. 7, 1787 (replacing the deceased Christoph von Gluck), treated him little better than a servant, even paying him less than half what Gluck was paid. Mozart did visit Potsdam (1790), Frankfurt and Prague (1791), so he could have included one or more of these symphonies in concerts in any of those cities – details of those visits are lacking. We’ll just never know.
As befitting a final symphony, the “Jupiter” – so-called either by impresario-violinist Johann Peter Salomon or pianist-music publisher Johann Baptist Cramer, presumably as it sounded so godly – uses an expansive soundscape. Written in two weeks and completed Aug. 10, 1788 – exactly one year after his “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” K. 525, and about 3 1/2 years before his death –it is his longest, most sublime symphony. The opening Allegro vivace, in sonata form, has a two-part military main theme (displaying majesty and heroism) that also appears beneath the woodwind transition to the second theme, which first part (first violins) is imitated by low strings while the firsts continue with the second part. For the closing theme, Mozart borrows from himself: “Un bacio di mano” (A Kiss of the Hand), K. 541, a May 1788 opera aria he wrote for his friend, bass Francesco Albertarelli, to interpolate into “Le gelosie fortunate” (The Fortunate Jealousy), a 1787 dramma giocoso (comic opera) by Pasquale Anfossi. There is a more pronounced presence of counterpoint than one usually encounters in Mozart, yet this movement merely hints at what is to come.
The slow movement (Andante cantabile), also in sonata form (and, like the first movement, with the exposition repeated), is a throwback to the slow movements of his earlier symphonies, more serenade- like, florid, nocturnal, even somewhat operatic. It has a poetic main theme, a secondary theme in the minor mode, and a closing theme, back in the home key of C, while the recap is concerned with the main theme. Phrases are gentle and sighing but never emotive, as Mozart keeps things strictly in check. The Minuet and Trio, Allegretto, is more scherzo than minuet, with a main theme that flows at first, then ends more dramatically. But the real interest lies in the second half of the Trio: a four-note theme that reappears, slightly tweaked, as the main theme of the finale.
Which brings us to the crown of the symphony, its apex: the justifiably famous Finale. In old-fashioned sonata form (both exposition and development-recapitulation to be repeated) combined with rondo, it includes no less than a half-dozen themes of varying lengths, all but one undergoing fugal treatment, in a masterful contrapuntal display whereby they are subjected to extensive development (even long before the music reaches the proper development section, which is short). These melodies become fragmented, syncopated, inverted, overlapped and otherwise turned inside out by all manner of instrumental combinations. There is tremendous energy propelling this movement forward through its labyrinth of complicated melodic interplay, resembling an opera buffo finale (which Mozart the opera composer knew a thing or two about), until the coda is reached. This coda uses a complex, five-part invertible counterpoint (motifs tossed between different registers of the orchestra contrapuntally) using five motifs and culminating with the sixth (the “non-fugal” one) and one other for a masterful conclusion.