Length: c. 18 minutes
Orchestration: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: December 22, 1934, Otto Klemperer conducting
Overheard: two university freshman talking. One says, “What about the Haffner?” His friend asks, “What’s a Haffner?"
Answered simply, Haffner is the parenthetical name of Mozart’s 35th Symphony. It seems, the smart freshie explains, that Siegmund Haffner, a magistrate in Salzburg, commissioned Mozart to compose music for two different special family occasions. For the wedding of the magistrate’s daughter in 1776, the then 20-year-old Mozart produced a serenade gala enough to gladden any bride’s heart. Then, for a Haffner festivity in 1782 the composer wrote an extended work, part of which became his 35th Symphony. Thus, the “Haffner” Symphony, in honor of the man who paid for it.
Mozart found the second commission more difficult to produce than the first. He had recently moved to Vienna, a small town boy trying to make his way in the big city. Life was exciting and bewildering, even feverish, both professionally and personally. He was performing, writing much, and in his spare time coming into contact for the first time with many works of Bach and Handel. His opera, Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio), was being readied for performance amid assorted intrigues, and as if that were not headache enough, he was battling his father over his intended marriage to Constanze Weber, which finally took place on August 4.
So, what to do about Herr Haffner? “Well,” Mozart wrote to his father in Salzburg, “all I can do is to devote the night to the task, for it cannot be managed otherwise.” From this moonlighting came a six-movement serenade, which was dispatched piecemeal to Salzburg. After its intended use, Mozart dropped the March movement, and the first Minuet, and introduced the remainder as a traditional symphony in Vienna in March 1783. It is no wonder that the Emperor, who was present at the all-Mozart concert on that date, was especially pleased with the “Haffner,” for it is as untroubled, nay, festive, as a serenade-turned-symphony ought to be.
The first movement’s opening sets the exhilarating tone: The full orchestra makes a bold bid for attention with a unison, octaves-leaping theme which moves on to pervade the entire movement. The galant inner movements fully display their entertainment nature, and the finale is alive with the buffa spirit. Of the latter movement, Mozart said it should be played “as fast as possible.” One wonders just how fast “fast” was in Mozart’s day.
— Orrin Howard served for many years as the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Director of Publications and Archives.