Friday, November 25, 2005

 

Mozart: the Haffner Symphony

The Haffner symphony (K.385) was written for some festive occasion (July, 1782) in the house of Siegmund Haffner, the "Mayor" of Salzburg; six years previously, Mozart had composed the famous "Serenade" which was played when Haffner's daughter, Elizabeth, was married. The symphony was also originally intended as a serenade; in this form it had an introductory march and two minuets which Mozart eliminated in 1783, transforming the work into a four-movement symphony. It is said that, having composed the work at top speed, Mozart forgot all about it so that upon return of the manuscript, he was agreeably surprised at its excellence. Critics agreed that the symphony clearly manifests the influence of Josef Haydn; it would appear that certain themes resemble airs to be found in Mozart's musical comedy "Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail" which was also composed in 1782.
The symphony (D major) has no Introduction but--- as is somewhat more common with Mozart---begins with an exceedingly spirited Theme. The subordinate Theme assumes a shape so similar, outwardly, to the principal one, that the hearer might question its own identity. But such thematic unity was considered not alone permissible but desirable. Here, the necessary contrast is secured by the difference in statement (it appears at first "upside down"), and by the new motives which grow naturally out of this one. Further, it seems to have been Mozart's express purpose to lay almost exclusive emphasis upon this festive Theme throughout. The form of the first Movement is sonata-allegro. It is scored for the "full" orchestra of that day: the quintet of strings, full octet of wood-wind (two each of flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon), two horns, two trumpets, and kettledrums---no trombones.
The usual slow Movement, Minuet; and Finale, complete Symphony.

Of note is the dramatic gesture in the third measure of the principal Theme, first Movement. It is essentially the crisp abrupt end of a phrase of two staccato quarter notes (here leaping up one octave). These rather pompous staccato beats may be seen in Carl Phillip Emanual Bach's third Symphony, primary theme, first Movement; and in Haydn's second Symphony, primary theme, first Movement; and Mozart's first Symphony, primary theme, first Movement. It is a "dramatic gesture" that was exceedingly popular, and, as cited, astonishingly common in earlier Symphonies. It occurs in many other Themes of Haydn and Mozart, but with diminishing frequency---like a mannerism whose hollowness was being detected. A lingering echo of it occurs in the Finale of Beethoven's Second Symphony (in the 2nd and 6th measures): but it is not unlikely that Beethoven, who abhorred "gestures" of any kind, was here, in this humorful Movement, good-naturedly mimicking the empty bombast of bygone days. Still, he uses the figure seriously in the second measure of his piano Sonata, Op.2, No.3; also in the first and second measures of Op.22, and even in the second measure of his prodigious Sonata, Op.106. It is completely repudiated by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms, in their symphonies---although Brahms makes fine, genuine dramatic use of it in his first piano Concerto, Op.15, second measure.

Cheers,

Comments:
HoVvHw The best blog you have!
 
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