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Learn about the piece:

Symphony No. 35 "Haffner"

Composed by

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart



2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings

First performance: March 23, 1783. Burgtheater, Vienna.

notes by Dr. Philip Hoch

The beginnings of the “Haffner” Symphony did not begin as a symphony but rather as a
serenade—a genre designed to honor and celebrate an individual. In Mozart’s case, Leopold
requested him to compose a serenade for the ennoblement of Sigmund Haffner. The Haffners
were close friends with the Mozarts, primarily through Sigmund (the Elder), mayor of Salzburg, a
patron who generously supported the musical family and their traveling endeavors across western
Europe. When requested to compose this serenade for Sigmund in 1782, Mozart was, as Michael
Steinberg describes, “up to his eyeballs with work.” This was partly due to his extensive work
reorchestrating his Die Entführung aus dem Serail. To add to this agenda, Mozart had just
proposed to Constanze Weber and moved to a new house in Vienna. Nonetheless, he still
composed a serenade for the event: Serenade for Orchestra in D Major, K. 250, “Haffner
Serenade.” After the eight-movement serenade was performed, Mozart revisited the Serenade and
transformed the piece into Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385. The matured “Haffner”
Symphony premiered on March 23, 1783, at the Burgtheater in Vienna.

The “Haffner” Symphony is structured in four movements, each featuring contrasting styles and
textures. The exuberant opening movement, Allegro con Spirito, as Neal Zaslaw notes, should be
played “with fire.” A false slow introduction is stated but is quickly followed with a bombastic
exposition in D major, where the strings perform rapid scalar passages. As expected with sonata
form, Mozart modulates to a cheerful theme in the dominant of A major. A development ensues
in D minor, flowing through a series of modulations. After these modulations, the movement
returns to the tonic in the recapitulation, recalling opening themes and harmonic progressions. A
palate-cleaning second movement, Andante, follows with a calming feel, full of lyricism, color,
and expression. The third movement, Menuetto, is a minuet and trio in triple meter. Inserting a
minuet and trio in symphonies was a common practice in the Classical era, showcasing a dance-
like number in the overall work. Here, Mozart emphasizes the downbeat prominently in forte—a
prime feature of the minuet dance. A cheerful trio accompanies the minuet, whose characteristics
are more subdued and witty. The minuet returns to finish the movement brightly and energetically. Presto concludes the symphony by returning to the “fire” set by the first movement.
Once again, Mozart introduces a witty theme in D major, but in a subdued manner. Following
three beats of silence, the rest of the orchestra enters with an explosive quality, surprising the
listener. The movement also follows sonata form, but the composer intersperses unexpected
silences and jarring dynamic shifts to keep the listener on the edge of their seats. With these
unpredictable forces combining, listeners should prepare to expect the unexpected!

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