Music was definitely a family activity for the Stamitz family! Johann Stamitz (1717-1757) was a Bohemian-born composer and father to Carl Stamitz (1745-1801) and Anton Stamitz (1750-~1809). All three Classical Era composers were part of the Mannheim Orchestra, a well-respected orchestra that included numerous composers who solidified Classical Era musical forms and expressive techniques.
Johann Stamitz was appointed the concertmaster of the Mannheim Orchestra in 1945, the same year that Carl was born. He is known as the founder of the Mannheim School of Music. Under his leadership, the precision and musicality of the orchestra developed to an unrivaled state (making it a favorite orchestra of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart).
Johann’s compositions are well known for their dynamic contrasts (crescendo and decrescendo), and the Mannheim Orchestra became well known for its execution of those dynamics. His symphonies helped to solidify the four-movement Classical symphony, an expansion of the three-movement Baroque symphony by adding a light movement (Johann often added a dance) between the slow and final movement of the symphony.
Johann was the early music teacher of his sons Carl and Anton.
Carl Stamitz played violin in the Mannheim Orchestra before moving to Paris, then touring as a virtuoso soloist. His service at Mannheim started in 1762, five years after the death of his father. He composed the most musical works from the family and from the Mannheim school, including two flute concertos.
Anton Stamitz followed Carl’s early career, playing violin in the Mannheim Orchestra, then moving to Paris with his brother. When Carl became a touring soloist, Anton remained in Paris and developed a career as a performer and composer. His public history is lost as of 1789, but he may have lived as late as 1809.
The Mannheim Orchestra during the court of Duke Karl Theodor in the late 1700s developed innovative performance techniques under Johann Stamitz’ leadership of the orchestra. Many of these innovations were adopted by the master composers of the Classical Era, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn.
The innovations developed by the Mannheim school include:
- Mannheim Crescendo – A crescendo performed by the full orchestra
- Mannheim Rocket – An ascending passage that explodes with energy, often arpeggiated
- Mannheim Roller – A long crescendo with a melody over an ostinato bassline
- Mannheim Sigh – Playing a two note slurred figure with weight on the first note
- Mannheim Birds – Composition technique where solo passages mimic bird sounds
- Sudden dramatic change of dynamics, such as playing piano after a long crescendo
Let’s listen to some of these techniques in some of the music composed by the Stamitz family!
Listening – Flute Related
Click here to find out what all of those Op numbers mean.
Johann Stamitz – Flute Concerto in C Major, Prestissimo
This is the final movement of Johann Stamitz’s Flute Concerto in C Major performed by Robert Aiken on flute. Listen for the Mannheim Birds technique in this movement immediately when the flute enters. Another example of Mannheim Birds occurs around the 5:30 mark. Can you hear some others?
Anton Stamitz – Concerto in G for Flute, Oboe and Orchestra
Listen for the intensity to build in a Mannheim Crescendo from around 3:30-3:50 in this recording of the first movement of Carl Stamitz’s Concerto in G for Flute, Oboe and Orchestra. Aurele Nicolet is the flutist – he is a winner of the National Flute Association’s Lifetime Achievement award. The cadenza at the end of the movement (where the flute and oboe play without the orchestra) is delightful – enjoy!
Johann Stamitz – Symphony in D Major
The last movement of the Symphony in D Major by Johann Stamitz opens with a Mannheim Rocket. It begins quietly, then gets louder as the orchestra plays an ascending arpeggio, until the final note explodes with energy! The link below is set to start right on the final movement so you can hear the Mannheim Rocket, but it is worth listening to the entire symphony – the opening movement has some nice examples of the Mannheim Crescendo.
Carl Stamitz – Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in G Major, Op. 29
This recording features the legendary Sir James Galway as flute soloist performing the second movement, Andante non troppo moderato, from the Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in G Major, Op. 29 by Carl Stamitz. Listen to the Mannheim Sigh technique right at the beginning when the orchestra opens the piece, and at the opening of the flute solo.
Carl Stamitz – Trio in G Major for Two Flutes and Cello
This is not an orchestral work so you may not hear many of the Mannheim techniques, but you will enjoy some lovely flute playing! The texture of this trio is unusual and remarkably full sounding for only 3 players.
Carl Stamitz wrote a series of duets for violin that have been arranged for two flutes.