From a concert program performed January 25, 2006, Charles Dutoit was then still guest conductor.
Symphony No. 35 in D major, K. 385 (“Haffner”) Composed in 1782
Wolfgang Amadèus Mozart Born in Salzburg, January 27, 1756 Died in Vienna, December 5, 1791
The first symphony that Mozart wrote in Vienna, after deciding in 1781 to abandon his native Salzburg forever, straddles two worlds, with one foot in the ferment of the empire’s cultural capital and the other still in Salzburg. Partly this was a reflection of the work’s origins: It was written for the composer’s childhood friend Siegmund Haffner, who wanted a new symphony for the Salzburg celebrations surrounding his ennoblement in late July of 1782. But if Mozart composed the “Haffner” Symphony for Salzburg, he nevertheless wrote it in a style permeated with a new Viennese outlook—and the difference between this piece and the symphonies that had gone before it is striking. Domestic Tensions Mozart and his father, Leopold, were not on the best of terms when the latter wrote officially to present the commission in mid-July. Not only was Leopold resentful about Wolfgang’s decision to stay on in Vienna, but he disliked the young woman his son had announced he would marry. The willful young Mozart (all of 26), in turn, seemed annoyed at the request, advising Leopold that to compose a symphony in two weeks was a tall order, especially considering how overworked he was: Having just seen his first Viennese opera, The Abduction from the Seraglio, to the stage, he was racing to produce a version of the piece for wind ensemble for publication (such arrangements did brisk sales), “otherwise someone else will beat me to it,” as he wrote, “and secure all the profits for himself.” Of course he might also have balked at the commission for other reasons, including resentment over the thought of working for Salzburg, the oppressive court atmosphere he thought he had left behind. Nevertheless a week later he sent to his father the first movement of what would become the “Haffner,” writing that “on Wednesday the 31st I shall send the two minuets, the Andante and the last movement. If I can manage to do so, I shall send a march too.” Mozart wrote vaguely that he had written the piece “in D major, because you prefer that key,” almost as if—as Neal Zaslaw has suggested—he felt he was losing touch with Salzburg and its tastes. From Serenade to Symphony If Mozart’s description of the work he was formulating sounds a bit unlike a symphony (the mention of a “march” is particularly disconcerting), we should keep in mind that despite the “incidental” or background nature of music written for such an occasion, Mozart and his father referred to the piece as a symphony from the beginning. Indeed the spirit of the piece is not really that of a serenade; true, its extroverted, “outdoor” mood contrasts with the stylized nature of most of Mozart’s previous symphonies, but the polish of its instrumental texture and the concentration of its thematic development are hardly those of “background music.” This piece is clearly a concert symphony. He sent the manuscript to Leopold in bits and pieces, with the last-completed segment mailed on August 7. Alas! It appears to have arrived too late for use in the ennoblement celebration. It is not clear whether the Symphony was played in Salzburg at that time; probably not. Determined to turn the piece into something usable, Mozart wrote to his father in December requesting that the manuscript of it and several other works be sent to him, for he wished to use them in a Viennese Lenten concert scheduled for March 23, 1783. “Please send me the symphonies I asked for as soon as possible,” he reiterated on January 4, “for I really need them now.” And again in early February: “Please send the symphonies, especially the last one, as soon as possible!” The piece finally arrived, some time in February. “My new Haffner symphony has positively amazed me,” he wrote back to Leopold, “for I had forgotten every single note of it. It will surely produce a good impression.” Nevertheless Mozart felt a need to rework the score before he presented it to Viennese audiences. In addition to omitting the march movement and deleting the redundant repeats in the first movement, he enriched the “old-fashioned” wind complement of oboes and bassoons with pairs of flutes and clarinets. In its new version the piece received its Viennese premiere on March 23, 1783, with the Emperor Joseph II himself present, on a concert that also included movements from concertos, concert arias, and improvised piano variations. It was one of Mozart’s strongest early concert successes. “How delighted [the Emperor] was,” the composer boasted to his father, “and how he applauded me!” A Closer Look The “Haffner” might be the only one of Mozart’s symphonies for which we have explicit performance directions from the composer’s pen. “The Allegro must be played with great fire,” he wrote to his father, “the last movement—as fast as possible.” The first movement is indeed one of the composer’s most searingly original pieces, with closely interrelated themes and sudden dramatic shifts into minor key; the development section is overtly rhetorical and even “operatic.” The not-too-slow movement (Andante) is cut from the same cloth as the parallel movement of Haydn’s “Clock” Symphony, but it must be said that Mozart’s andante contains, ultimately, a greater richness of harmonic drama and detail. The Menuetto, bright and vigorous, is enlivened by a Trio section that modulates to the oddly coloristic dominant key. The Finale (Presto) is a breathless sonata-rondo that—if it really is played “as fast as possible”—has both players and audience members on the edge of their seats. —Paul J. Horsley La Valse Composed from 1919-20 Maurice Ravel Born in Ciboure, France, March 7, 1875 Died in Paris, December 28, 1937 Deeply moved by works of Debussy from the 1890s, around 1900 Ravel began to find his own answers to the questions about harmony, color, and instrumental texture that the late 19th century had left unresolved. As a new century dawned, so did hopes of a “new music,” and this impulse found expression in the music of composers as diverse as Elgar and Schoenberg, Puccini and Debussy. At the beginning of the decade, Ravel’s music began to appear in print for the first time: The publisher Demets brought out elegiac pieces such as the Pavane for a Dead Princess and revolutionary works such as Jeux d’eau. Buoyed by these successes, in 1904 the composer wrote Miroirs, a remarkable set of “impressionistic” piano pieces that some would later compare to the paintings of Monet or Van Gogh. After this he was destined to join Debussy in writing a new chapter in the history of French music. An “Apotheosis of the Viennese Waltz” There is a popular element in the work we hear today that was inspired by the past and that conveys both nostalgia and shrewd critique. Ravel conceived La Valse as an “apotheosis of the Viennese waltz, which is entangled in my mind with the idea of the whirl of destiny.” He completed the piece, which he had first called Wien (Vienna), at the end of World War I, when Vienna’s destiny—as the former center of the empire that the war dissolved—had indeed determined a new course for the Western world. As such it became a sort of “Death and Transfiguration” for the very concept of the waltz, as it had been defined through two centuries and perfected by the Strauss family a quarter-century earlier. If the piece contains a dark and even somewhat sinister element, this is in keeping with the time and place of its inception. World War I had, after all, altered the shape of the world as no war ever had. Composed originally as a dance score for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, La Valse used material sketched years earlier—some of which had already appeared, in fact, near the end of the 1911 Valses nobles et sentimentales. Diaghilev found the piece untenable for the ballet, claiming that it would be too expensive to produce. Thus it was first performed as a concert piece, on a program of the Concert Lamoureux in Paris on December 12, 1920; Camille Chevillard was the conductor. Not until October 1926 was La Valse presented as a ballet, in a production by the Royal Flemish Ballet in Antwerp, with the great Ida Rubinstein. A Closer Look Ravel described the piece thus: “Eddying clouds allow glimpses of waltzing couples. The clouds gradually disperse, revealing a vast hall filled with a whirling throng. The scene grows progressively brighter. The light of chandeliers blazes out: an imperial court around 1855.” This brilliantly orchestrated work conveys both the gaiety of the waltz and, as a reflection of Vienna’s somewhat paralytic new destiny, a level of seriousness that is ultimately disquieting. —Paul J. Horsley Program notes © 2006. All rights reserved. Program notes may not be reprinted without written permission from The Philadelphia Orchestra Association.