Mozart Symphony No. 35

The 'Haffner' Symphony

Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 (KV 385), was composed in Vienna in 1782, roughly between the Paris (No. 31) and Prague symphonies (No. 38).

The Haffner family

The Symphony No. 35 was composed in Vienna in 1782, roughly between the Paris (No. 31) and Prague symphonies (No. 38). It's called the 'Haffner Symphony' after the Haffner family of Salzburg, who apparently commissioned it to commemorate Sigmund Haffner's ennoblement. The Mozarts knew the Haffners through Sigmund Haffner's father, also Sigmund Haffner, who had been mayor of Salzburg and who had helped them out on their early tours through Europe. A few years before, in 1776, Mozart had written a smaller piece for the same family, a serenade for the wedding of Marie Elizabeth Haffner to Franz Xavier Spath.

The request to write the symphony came via Mozart's father on 20 July 1782. Mozart, already preoccupied with establishing his name in Vienna, was trying to finish his opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail, he was busy mending relations with his fiancé Constanze, and he was relocating to a house on the Hohe Brücke in Vienna. He had no time. He responded to his father: 'I am up to my ears in work. By a week from Sunday, I must arrange my opera for wind instruments, or someone else will do it and secure the profits instead of me. And now you ask for a new symphony, too! How on earth can I do that? ...well, I will have to stay up all night, for that is the only way; for you, dearest father, I will make the sacrifice. You may rely on having something from me in each mail delivery.'

My new symphony has amazed me

Some believe that Mozart's father deliberately added to Mozart's workload because he disapproved of his plans to marry Constanze. Whatever the case, Mozart worked on the music, and sent it to his father, section by section. What he wrote was a new symphony - a completely different work from the serenade presented earlier - with an introductory march and two minuets.

Months later, in March of 1783, Mozart was involved in creating an academy of music at the Burgtheater. Wanting to perform the symphony he had so quickly rushed to his father, he wrote to Leopold Mozart requesting the score. He was quite surprised by the quality of his own work: 'Most heartfelt thanks for the music you have sent me ... my new Haffner symphony has positively amazed me, for I had forgotten every single note of it. It must surely produce a good effect.' He was correct. The performance at the academy on March 23, 1783 was a huge success.

Koen Kleijn
Translation: Peter Lockwood