Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791)

Born January 27, 1756 in Salzburg, Austria.
Died December 5, 1791 in Vienna, Austria.

Symphony No. 35 in D major, K. 385

Composed July 20-August 7, 1782.

First Performance: March 23, 1783 at the Vienna Hofburgtheater conducted by Mozart.

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings.

Mozart left the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg in June 1781 to begin a career as a composer, performer and teacher in Vienna. In July 1782 Mozart received a letter from his father requesting music for a party celebrating the ennoblement of his childhood friend Sigmund Haffner the younger (1756-1787) who was the son of the late Salzburg mayor Sigmund Haffner (1699-1772). This was not the first time that the Haffner family sought music from Mozart. Haffner had commissioned Mozart to compose music for a party on the wedding day of his sister Marie Elisabeth on July 29 , 1776. That is the Haffner Serenade, K. 250. The timing couldn’t be worse. In July 1782 Mozart was very busy. He wrote to Papa: “Well, I am up to my eyes in work. By Sunday I have to arrange my opera [Seraglio] for wind instruments, otherwise somebody else will beat me to it and get the profits. And now you ask me to write a symphony too! How on earth am I to do so?”

Mozart was not exaggerating. In addition to his wind arrangements and being occupied with students, he had just premiered his opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail K. 384 on July 16th. On July 23rd he was to move into a new house in preparation for his marriage to Constanze on August 4 (a fact which he kept from Papa).  But he did comply and sent movements to his father starting July 27 and ending August 7 , adding “I only hope that all will reach you in good time, and be to your taste.” Papa received a 6 movement serenade-symphony in D Major.

Months later, in March 1783, Mozart decided to include the serenade-symphony on a concert of his works at the Burgtheater scheduled during Lent (when theater and opera performances were suspended). In a letter dated December4 he asked his father to send him the score. He had to ask again on December 21 “I also asked you to send me … the new symphony that I composed for Haffner at your request.” On January 4, 1782 he repeated the request elliptically saying he didn’t care if Papa sent the score or parts. On January 22 he wrote more directly “I really need them now” and finally on February 5, “Please send the symphonies, especially the last one,  as soon as possible!” Mozart finally received the score on February 15. Mozart seems to have surprised himself, for he wrote: “My new ‘Haffner’ Symphony has positively amazed me, for I had forgotten every single note of it. It must surely produce a good effect.” For the Viennese audience Mozart made several changes. He dropped the serenade’s march (perhaps it is K. 408 No. 2?) and one of the minuets – which is now lost in order to present the  expected 4 movement symphony. He also filled out the orchestration by adding pairs of flutes and clarinets to the first and last movements.

The lenten concert at the Burgtheater on March 23, 1783 contained an abundance of Mozart’s music. One thing that would seem strange to us – besides the length of the program – was that it began with the first three movements of the Haffner Symphony but the finale was not heard until the end of the concert several hours later!

Here is the program as Mozart related it to Papa.

  • The Haffner Symphony, first 3 movements.
  • Aria No. 11  “Se il padre perdei” from Idomeneo(K.366)
  • Piano Concerto in C (K.415)
  • Scene “Misera dove son?” (Recitative and Aria for soprano) (K. 369)
  • Symphonie Concertante from Serenade in D (III and IV from K. 320)
  • Piano Concerto in D (K.175) with new finale K. 382
  • Aria No. 16 “Parto, m’affretto” from Lucio Silla (K. 135)
  • Fugue improvised for piano  and Variations for piano K.  398
  • Variation piano (K. 455)
  • Recitative and Rondo for soprano “Mia speranza adorata” (K. 416)
  • Last movement, Haffner Symphony (K. 385)

The symphony is in four movements:

  1. Allegro con spirito, 4/4
  2. Andante, 2/4
  3. Menuetto, 3/4
  4. Presto, 2/2

The majority of symphonies of the 1780s commenced with a bold, often unison, gesture that acted as a “noise killer.” The Haffner symphony is no exception (although Nos. 36, 38 and 39 are). The first movement Allegro con spirito begins with a striking upward leap played in unison. It then proceeds with dramatic silences that outline an irregular 5 measure phrase (3 plus 2). The movement is in Sonata Allegro form but perhaps taking a cue from Haydn, this movement is monothematic (there is no second theme, which breaks from the custom of the period). There is the expected contrasting second subject, but closer inspection reveals that it is really the first theme wearing different clothes. The movement veers headlong into the development section without repeating the exposition.  Everything seems to derive from the opening theme with its dramatic leaps and easily recognizable rhythmic pattern. Mozart wrote that “The first allegro must be played with great fire.”

First movement opening (click to see entire example)

The longest movement is the second movement G major Andante . It is in song form with a trio that begins with chords in the winds with the melody in the in low strings before taken up by the violin. The brief third movement Minuet is not the sort of too-precious courtly dance but is more like a bumptious rhythmic country dance which is interrupted by a contrastingly legato trio.

Mozart wrote that he wanted the Presto finale “played as fast as possible.” It is a sort of sonata-rondo form where the main theme is taken from the aria “Ha, wie will ich triumphieren” sung by the harem keeper Osmin in Die Entführung aus dem Serail which must have still been ringing in his ears.

The symphony was well received. He wrote to papa “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 [Joseph II] was present and, goodness! – How delighted he was and how he applauded me!”


Full Score at IMSLP