Listen to the first 35 bars of the first movement of the Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K.385, known as the “Haffner” Symphony, enough times so that you can hear it in your imagination. Even though we will be analyzing only the first 13 bars or so, it is important to have in mind this much of the piece. 

Example 57 is a period of 8 measures, constructed as a typical sentence, based on material from the beginning of the Haffner. Mozart did not compose this phrase to begin his piece! It is, again, based on melodic material used initially, but recomposed to show how it might be heard as a sentence prototype.  

Ex. 57 Mozart,  Symphony in D Major, K385 (“Haffner”), i, recomposition


The first 4 measures may be broken down into the expected 2-measure ideas, separated by rests in measure 2. Phrase two takes the durational pattern of bar 3, motive x:

haffner motive x.png

and repeats it in bars 5 and 6. The durational pattern of the last three notes of this motive, motive y:  

haffner motive y.png

is repeated from the end of bar 6 to bar 8. The treatment of these motives is a special case of the typical fragmentation that occurs in sentences. Notice how the fragments get shorter as the final ‘d’ of the sentence in bar 8 is approached. This process of compression is often referred to as foreshortening, where the rhythm of motive entries speeds up. Finally, a repeat of the beginning is shown in measures 9 and 10.   

Now let’s observe how Mozart has used techniques of phrase expansion and phrase connection to refashion the musical ideas we borrowed to form the sentence. 

Ex. 58 Mozart,  Symphony in D Major, K385 (“Haffner”), i,
             Measures 1-15, phrase rhythm

ex.59-Haffner-m1-15-phrase rhythm.png

At the start of Example 58, what could easily have been a conventional four-bar phrase has now been expanded to five bars by doubling the value of the first note to fill the entire first bar. Our prototype second phrase now begins way down the line in measure 10. The span of time between the end of the first phrase and the beginning of the second phrase in our prototype has now expanded to four measures (6-9). These four measures are filled with two presentations of a varied motive x, labeled x’, each one with an added measure consisting of a half note followed by an eighth. This sets up a regular repetition of motive x and x’ every two bars (4, 6, 8, and 10). That pattern is broken with motive x being pulled back a measure (11), causing a compression of a full measure. Motive y is now heard three times, causing two compressions of a half measure, shortening the motivic rhythm to a half bar and increasing the acceleration of melodic entries leading to the final goal ‘d’ in bar 13. The phrase rhythm is shown above the score in note values.  

Notice what has happened to the repeat, the beginning of which was shown in measures 9 and 10 in the prototype. It is pulled back a full bar to begin at the same time as the previous phrase ends, filling the silence remaining in (former) measure 8. The term elision is used to describe the connection when phrases overlap in this manner. Elision is most often used to dramatize the phrase connection, and other musical elements are often marshaled to heighten the drama. We can now see—and hear! —how Mozart creates an organic rhythmic gesture that begins with a majestic five-measure phrase, and continues with a rhythmic process of acceleration, culminating in the dramatic elision in measure 13.   

Compare the version above with our hypothetical sentence (Example 57). The whole note followed by the two octave leap up (mm. 1-2) broadens the first phrase by providing a kind of double downbeat: an agogic accent (heard restrospectively) followed by a pronounced contour accent. The added pharse unit over an implied dominant chord (mm.6-9), builds tension and acts as a windup for the last four bars. Notice the typical 2 + 2 motivic structure of the first phrase of a sentence used here (without the cadence structure), and how well it coordinates with the “liquidation” of the final phrase during which the tension is spent by the motivic acceleration. The elision in m.13 is the goal of this overarching process. 

Finally, Example 59 shows elements that support this phrase rhythm. This is what Mozart wants us to hear. We will examine these in order: dynamics, orchestration, range, and harmony.

Ex. 59 Mozart,  Symphony in D Major, K385 (“Haffner”), i.  Measures 1-15, with supporting elements

The dynamics, forte (mm. 1-5), piano (mm. 6-9) and forte at the elision (m. 13ff), support the beginning of the acceleration process by the contrasting dynamic in bar 6. Notice there is no crescendo here, which heightens the dramatic return to forte in bar 13.

The piece begins with the full orchestra playing in stark octaves and covering a range of more than two octaves. There are an unusually large number of unfilled leaps, three upward and one downward, in a short span of time. Only the strings, with support of a bass line in bassoons (not shown), are heard during the set-up of the acceleration. The range has shrunk to a sixth, from g1 to e2 in mm. 8-9, after which the final phrase cascades an octave and a half, from g2 to d1 at the elision in m. 13.   

The dominant harmony, implied by the ‘a’ (m.5) at the end of the descending scale, d-c#-b-a, is sustained through bar 10. Then as the acceleration begins in earnest, the chords change every half bar until the cadence is reached. As we can observe, the coordination of these elements with the phrase rhythm is masterful. 




- Table of Contents -