Gürzenich Kammerorchester Köln performs Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Serenade No. 7 in D Major, K.250 (248b), more commonly known as the “Haffner Serenade”. Soloist (violin): Torsten Janicke. Recorded on February 4, 2023.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Haffner Serenade
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Serenade No. 7 in D Major, K.250 (248b), more commonly known as the “Haffner” Serenade, is a key piece of his early maturity.
The serenade was composed in 1776 for the wedding of Elizabeth Haffner, the daughter of a prominent Salzburg family, and Franz Xaver Spaeth. The Haffner family was very close to the Mozarts and had previously commissioned what would become known as the “Haffner” Symphony.
The “Haffner” Serenade is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, a bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings, and is more than an hour in length. The work is quite substantial, consisting of eight movements:
- Allegro maestoso – Allegro molto
- Menuetto – Trio
- Adagio – Allegro
- Menuetto galante – Trio
- Menuetto – Trio I – Trio II
- Rondo. Allegro assai
The second, third, and fourth movements feature prominent violin solos. Indeed, the rondeau (the fourth movement) has been arranged for solo violin and used as a popular virtuoso piece.
In many ways, the Haffner Serenade anticipates Mozart’s later compositions in its level of sophistication and the intricacy of its orchestration. Each movement is uniquely expressive and offers a glimpse of the compositional genius that Mozart would continue to demonstrate throughout his career.
The piece also contains a well-known march, which was composed as an addition to the serenade to be used in the wedding ceremony. In concert performances and recordings, this march is often included either at the beginning or the end of the serenade.
It’s worth noting that Mozart later reused the Rondo theme from the fourth movement (Adagio – Allegro) in the last movement of his Posthorn Serenade (Serenade No. 9 in D major, K.320).
1. Allegro maestoso – Allegro molto
The first movement of Mozart’s Haffner Serenade is marked Allegro maestoso – Allegro molto.
As suggested by the indication “Allegro maestoso,” the movement begins with a grand, majestic introduction that features fanfare-like gestures, a reflection of the celebratory occasion for which the serenade was composed. This part of the movement is filled with regal splendor and features the horns prominently, creating a sense of ceremony.
The introduction transitions into an “Allegro molto” section, which is lively and energetic. The themes are gracefully articulated and showcase Mozart’s exceptional ability to write lyrical, memorable melodies. As typical of the sonata form, which is commonly used in first movements, this section presents two contrasting themes, each developed and varied as the movement progresses.
The first theme of the “Allegro molto” is characterized by a rising and falling scale-like figure and is joyous and festive in character. The second theme provides contrast, offering more lyrical and melodious material.
Throughout the movement, Mozart masterfully manipulates these themes and interplays them with the orchestra, creating a rich and varied texture. The movement concludes with a restatement of the themes and ends on a vigorous and uplifting note, providing a fitting close to the beginning of this grand serenade.
The second movement of Haffner Serenade is marked “Andante.” This label indicates a moderately slow tempo, often interpreted as a walking pace.
The movement provides a contrast to the lively and energetic first movement, offering a more contemplative and serene character. It’s structured as a set of variations on a theme, which was a common form in the Classical period.
The theme, presented at the outset, is a simple, graceful melody, full of charm and elegance. This melody is then subjected to a series of variations. These variations showcase Mozart’s inventive genius as he transforms the theme through changes in harmony, rhythm, texture, and instrumentation.
In the course of the movement, you’ll find sections where Mozart highlights different sections of the orchestra. The melody may pass from the strings to the winds, for example, creating a variety of colors and moods. There are also solo passages that allow individual players to shine.
3. Menuetto – Trio
The third movement is a Menuetto and Trio.
The “Menuetto” is a type of dance movement that was standard in classical symphonies, sonatas, and chamber music. The minuet is characterized by its triple meter (3/4 time) and its moderate tempo. It is often elegant and refined, as befits its origins in a courtly dance.
In Mozart’s third movement of the Haffner Serenade, the Minuet section is robust and stately, with a memorable rhythmic pattern that propels the music forward.
Following the Menuetto is the Trio section. The term “Trio” originated from the early days of the minuet when the contrasting middle section was often scored for three instruments. By Mozart’s time, the term Trio simply referred to the contrasting section in the middle of the minuet and did not dictate the number of instruments to be used.
In the Haffner Serenade, the Trio provides a contrast to the Menuetto. It’s lighter in texture and offers a change in mood – a common practice in such movements to provide contrast and relief from the main Minuet section.
After the Trio, the Menuetto section returns, rounding off the movement in what’s referred to as ternary form (A-B-A structure).
This alternation of a more assertive Menuetto with a contrasting Trio section demonstrates Mozart’s skill in balancing different musical characters within a single movement. As with the rest of the “Haffner” Serenade, this movement is notable for its charm and elegance.
4. Adagio – Allegro
This movement begins with a slow introduction, as indicated by the term “Adagio.” This opening provides a moment of respite and contemplation with its tender and lyrical melodies, and it sets a serene and somewhat introspective mood. The orchestra’s string section is often highlighted here, showcasing its capacity for warm, rich sonorities.
The movement then transitions into a lively “Allegro” section, creating a strong contrast with the slow introduction. This part of the movement is energetic and joyful, full of bright orchestral colors. As the tempo quickens, the music becomes more spirited and vivacious.
The Allegro section follows a sonata form, a common structure in classical music which consists of exposition (with two contrasting themes), development (where the themes are explored and varied), and recapitulation (where the themes are returned, typically in the home key).
The first theme in the exposition is generally more active, often characterized by a clear, rhythmic motif, while the second theme offers a contrast – it is usually more lyrical and often appears in a different key. These themes are then developed, varied, and intertwined in the development section, which often includes explorations into different keys and sometimes presents the themes in new and surprising ways. The recapitulation section brings a sense of return and resolution, as the themes are restated in the home key.
This fourth movement, with its contrasting sections and vivid themes, showcases Mozart’s ability to create an intricate musical narrative full of energy and emotion.
5. Menuetto galante – Trio
This is the second minuet of the serenade. Unlike the more vigorous and robust third movement minuet, this one, marked as “Menuetto Galante,” suggests a gentler, more refined character in keeping with the word “galante.” The Galante style was a musical aesthetic prevalent in the mid-18th century that favored simplicity, homophonic textures, and an emphasis on melody.
The Menuetto is elegant and graceful, filled with melodic charm. It’s a perfect example of Mozart’s ability to craft beautiful and memorable tunes. The character is light, and the dance-like quality of the minuet is clearly audible.
Following the Menuetto, we have the Trio section. As in the third movement, this Trio serves as a contrasting section to the Menuetto. While details can vary depending on the performance, typically, the Trio is characterized by a change in mood, often providing a more relaxed, lyrical counterpoint to the Menuetto.
After the Trio, it’s standard practice to repeat the Menuetto, creating a ternary (ABA) form. This return of the Menuetto provides a sense of symmetry and balance to the movement.
As the term “Andante” suggests, this movement has a moderately slow tempo, akin to a walking pace. It provides another moment of reprieve and contrast amidst the predominantly lively character of the serenade.
The movement is written in a theme-and-variations form, a structure Mozart used quite frequently in his compositions. It begins with a simple, gracious theme that is then subjected to a number of variations. These variations transform the original theme in several ways, including changes in rhythm, harmony, texture, and mood. Some of the variations might feature virtuosic string playing, while others might bring out the winds for a different color.
Each variation generally maintains the same underlying structure as the theme, but Mozart’s creative treatments make each one unique. The process of variation allows Mozart to showcase not only his inventive harmonic and melodic ingenuity but also the diverse capabilities of the orchestral instruments.
The “Andante” movement of the Haffner Serenade is a lovely display of Mozart’s subtlety as a composer. The theme and each variation unfold with a sense of natural grace and sophistication, making this movement a beautiful example of Mozart’s style during his early mature period.
7. Menuetto – Trio I – Trio II
In this movement, Mozart slightly deviates from the traditional minuet and trio form by including an extra trio section, resulting in an expanded A-B-A-C-A form. This is not entirely unusual in Mozart’s music, as he was known for his innovative approach to form and his desire to keep his music fresh and surprising.
The initial Menuetto section is spirited and vigorous, again demonstrating the dance-like quality inherent in this type of movement. The melodies are graceful and charming, the rhythm distinct, propelling the music forward.
Trio I provides a contrast to the Menuetto. In typical Mozart fashion, it offers a change of mood and character, with a shift to a more relaxed and lyrical musical landscape.
Trio II further explores this contrast, providing yet another perspective within the movement. This second trio might feature different instruments or musical ideas, adding to the richness and diversity of the movement.
After Trio II, the Menuetto is reprised, rounding off the movement. This return to the familiar theme offers a sense of balance and closure.
By expanding the traditional minuet and trio form to include an extra trio section, Mozart imbues the seventh movement of the Haffner Serenade with an additional layer of complexity and surprise, a testament to his innovative approach to composition.
8. Rondo. Allegro assai
The finale of Mozart’s Haffner Serenade is marked “Rondo. Allegro assai.”
A Rondo is a musical form characterized by a recurrent theme (refrain) that alternates with contrasting sections (episodes). The typical structure of a Rondo is ABACA or ABACABA.
The final movement of the “Haffner” Serenade is vivacious and dynamic, marked “Allegro assai,” which indicates a very fast tempo. The recurrent theme is catchy and energetic, providing a sense of unity and coherence to the movement.
The contrasting sections, or episodes, provide variety and contrast. They might introduce new themes or elaborate on existing ones, and they often explore different key areas. Despite their contrast to the main theme, these sections are usually similar in character, maintaining the overall energetic and joyful mood of the movement.
As is common in a rondo, the main theme returns after each episode, giving a sense of familiarity and return. The frequent recurrence of the main theme makes rondos catchy and easily recognizable.
In the context of the whole serenade, this final movement provides a brilliant and uplifting conclusion. The “Rondo. Allegro assai” showcases Mozart’s ability to create compelling musical narratives and his talent for composing memorable, tuneful music.
This lively finale ensures that the Haffner Serenade ends on a high note, leaving the listener with a lasting impression of Mozart’s compositional prowess. It perfectly encapsulates the celebratory and festive spirit that pervades the entire serenade.
- Serenade No. 7 “Haffner Serenade” (Mozart) on Wikipedia
- Rachmaninoff: The Bells [Kolokola] [Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, Groot Omroepkoor, Karina Canellakis] - February 25, 2024
- Tchaikovsky: Piano Trio [Kantorow, Petrova, Pascal] - February 24, 2024
- Jussi Björling sings La Donna è Mobile - February 23, 2024