Mozart: Symphony No. 35 "Haffner", Symphony No. 40 & Serenade No. 13 "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik"
Julius Rudel, Virtuoso di Praga
Symphony No. 35 In D, K 385 "Haffner": I. Allegro con spirito
Symphony No. 35 In D, K 385 "Haffner": II. Andante
Symphony No. 35 In D, K 385 "Haffner": III. Menuetto
Symphony No. 35 In D, K 385 "Haffner": IV. Presto
Symphony No. 40 In G Minor, K. 550: I. Molto Allegro
Symphony No. 40 In G Minor, K. 550: II. Andante
Symphony No. 40 In G Minor, K. 550: III. Menuetto
Symphony No. 40 In G Minor, K. 550: IV. Allegro assai
Serenade No. 13 In G, K 525 "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik": I. Allegro
Serenade No. 13 In G, K 525 "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik": II. Romanze
Serenade No. 13 In G, K 525 "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik": III. Menuetto
Serenade No. 13 In G, K 525 "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik": IV. Rondo
Any critic attempting to write an essay, however slight, about Mozart's Symphony in D Major, K. 385, "Haffner"; Symphony in G Minor, K. 550; and "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik," K. 525, faces a simple, yet vexing problem - what is there left to say? The verdict on these works was in long ago: they are masterpieces, one and all, played throughout the world, venerated (and, more importantly, loved) by both musicians and the general public.
So what does one say? The music, of course, speaks for itself, and it is inexhaustible. Ezra Pound defined a classic as "something that remains news," and these pieces have been "news" for more than 200 years now. In a century where virtually all of our shared assumptions have been called into question, I can think of only two important artists who actively disliked Mozart: Noel Coward and Glenn Gould. For the rest of us, the composer remains something of a secular miracle.
Stanley Sadie, the editor of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, has noted that the "Haffner" Symphony (K. 385) falls between symphony and serenade. Indeed, Mozart originally conceived this work as a five-movement serenade. "[Mozart] was gradually moving toward a more symphonic musical language and when, in 1782, he wrote the Haffner' Symphony, he had reached a stage of his development at which he could no longer express himself by means of the leisurely and relatively diffuse serenade style. There are still serenade elements in this work which one does not find in Mozart's other symphonies, but the opposite way of saying the same thing is more significant -there are sufficient symphonic elements in this work, conceived as a serenade, to make ii a spendid symphony; and that was something new ... "
Indeed, it was, although the Symphony No. 385 harkens back to the symphonies and serenades Mozart composed during his tenure in Salzburg, it has a grandeur we associate with his late music. The symphony is customarily performed in the four movements recorded here. A revision Mozart undertook in 1785 for a Vienna performance added paired flutes and clarinets in the outer movements.
The late composer Roger Sessions once told a student that music was "beyond emotion." If any single creation can be used to illustrate his point, it might as well be Mozart's Symphony in G Minor (K. 550). I've read analyses (most of them dating from the nineteenth century) that refer to this symphony's "charm," "amiability," and "childlike simplicity." In our time, we are more likely to find the G Minor Symphony the epitome of high tragedy, from the breathless surgency and all-but-unprecedented brevity of the introduction through that amazing, disjunct transitional passage in the finale.
Perhaps it is all of these things. Perhaps it is none of them. Most likely the "meaning" of this symphony should be left up to the listener -and .there is no doubt that K. 550 means a lot to a vast number of people. It dates from 1788 (the composer's penultimate work in this genre), and almost from the beginning, it has been Mozart's most "popular" symphony -the most performed, the most recorded, and likely, the most analyzed. With good reason: as the musicologist Neal Zaslaw has written: "In addition to being a pillar of the repertoire and one of the most flawless exemplars of the Classical style, the G Minor Symphony is a key work in understanding the link between musical Classicism and musical Romanticism, and perhaps even a mournful hint of what Mozart might have composed had he lived a normal lifespan."
Finally, there is Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, a piece that holds a position in Mozart's "entertainment music" roughly analogous to that of K. 550 among the symphonies. Light, straightforward, serene, constantly engaging but rarely demanding, this compact serenade marks the summit of Mozart's divertimento writng for orchestra. Nobody knows what occasion inspired "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" (which was composed concurrently with Mozart's most stern and dramatic late opera, Don Giovanni, in 1787), but even as you read these lines, it is being played happily by orchestras, student and professional, around the world, and taken to heart by their audiences.