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Mozart Minute: Debauched "Haffner"

image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red coat
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Mozart's elegant “Haffner” Serenade was first performed at a grand and resplendent celebration. But one later performance ended in nothing short of debauchery.

Mozart composed his “Haffner” serenade in 1776 on the occasion of the wedding of Elizabeth Haffner, the daughter of the former mayor of Salzburg. Mozart’s serenade was performed for the first time on July 21, 1776 at a celebration the evening before the wedding.

By 1777 Wolfgang had gotten fed up with his boss, Salzburg's Archbishop Hieronymous Colloredo, and that summer took leave from his job in the archbishop’s court to look for greener pastures elsewhere in Europe. That venture took him first to Germany, where in Augsburg, Mannheim and Munich he schmoozed for opportunities.

The folks back in Salzburg lamented Mozart’s departure. Mozart’s father, Leopold Mozart, wrote to his son on Sept. 28, 1777 of a concert put on by the Salzburg violinist Franz Kolb on which part of one of Mozart’s serenades, likely the "Haffner" serenade, was performed.

“As the music was so much praised and won extraordinary acclamation and applause," Leopold wrote, "(Herr Kolb) announced ‘You have been hearing the compositions of a good friend who is no longer with us.’ Whereupon they all cried out: ‘What a pity that we have lost him!’” (The Letters of Mozart and His Family, trans. Emily Anderson)

Even though this music was born of noble intentions for a noble family, that particular evening’s performance wasn’t all was all pomp and circumstance. Leopold’s letter continues, “When (the performance) was over, they all got drunk and shouldered one another in processions round the room, knocking against the lustres or rather the chandelier which hangs from the middle of the ceiling, so that they smashed the centre bowl and other pieces, which will now have to be sent to Venice to be replaced.” 

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.