Carl Stamitz



Carl Philipp Stamitz was born in Mannheim in 1745 (the exact date is not known, but he was baptised on 8 May). His father was Johann Wenzel Anton (Jan Václav Antonín) Stamitz (1717-1757), who was born in Německý Brod in Bohemia, studied at the Jesuit Gymnasium in Jihlava (a silver-mining town in Moravia, where Mahler went to school) and at the University in Prague, and entered the court orchestra of the Elector Palatine, Carl Philipp, in Mannheim probably in 1741, as a violinist. In 1746, four years after Carl Philipp had been succeeded by his son Carl Theodor, Johann Stamitz was appointed Konzertmeister, and during the next ten years brought the Mannheim orchestra to such a peak of perfection that Dr Charles Burney was moved to describe it (in 1772) as ‘an army of generals’.

Carl, Johann’s elder surviving son, studied with his father and, after his death, with other members of the court orchestra, including Christian Cannabich, Ignaz Holzbauer and Franz Xaver Richter. He was one of the second violins in the orchestra from 1762 to 1770, in which year he moved to Paris, where he was appointed court composer and conductor to the Duc de Noailles and where he and his younger brother Anton (born in 1750) were regular performers in the Concert spirituel (both were equally proficient on the violin and the viola). In 1779 or 1780 Carl moved to The Hague, where, between 1782 and 1784, he appeared, primarily as a violist, at twenty-eight concerts given at the court of William V, Prince of Orange. Between 1788 and 1790 he performed in Hamburg, Lübeck, Magdeburg, Leipzig, Berlin (where, in 1786, he and Johann Adam Hiller directed a performance of Handel’s Messiah), Dresden, Prague, Halle, Nuremberg and Kassel. He maried Maria Josepha Pilz some time before 1789, and they had four children, all of whom died in infancy. Stamitz spent his last years in Jena, as Kapellmeister and teacher at the University, but most of his ambitious plans for further concert tours came to nothing, and he died in Jena on 9 November 1801, ten months after his wife.

Carl Stamitz’s compositions include over fifty symphonies, nearly forty symphonies concertantes (most of them with two solo instruments: two violins, violin and cello, or violin and viola), some forty solo concertos (for violin, clarinet, flute and bassoon) and a huge body of chamber music for strings and for winds, both separately and in combination. The earliest symphonies date from his years in Mannheim, the last from 1791, the year of Mozart’s death. A thematic catalogue of forty-eight of the symphonies was included in the volume of Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Bayern devoted to the Mannheim symphonists edited by Hugo Riemann and published in Leipzig by Breitkopf & Härtel in 1902, in which they are listed (together with twenty-two symphonies concertantes and two orchesterquartette) numerically according to key.

Symphony in F major, Op. 24, No. 3

1. Grave - Allegro assai
2. Andante moderato —
3. Allegretto / Allegro assai

The first of the four symphonies recorded here, in F (F5 in Riemann) is the third of a set of three published in 1784 as Op. 24 by Burchard Hummel in Amsterdam and The Hague, and is scored for strings, two oboes and two horns. The first movement, in sonata form, is prefaced by a short but spacious slow introduction, which exerts some influence on the outline of its busy first subject. A shapely subsidiary theme in C is presented by the strings, and there is a rather free ‘development’ section which draws mainly on the first subject. The second movement, in condensed sonata form, is set in an elegiac D minor, but with a strong bias towards F major; it leads straight into the finale, a bucolic rondo with a minore episode shortly before the end.

Symphony in C major, Op. 13/16, No. 5

1. Grave - Allegro assai
2. Andante grazioso
3. Allegro

The next two symphonies were published in a set of six in London in 1777 by M.Dall as Op. 13, and in Paris by Jean-Georges Sieber as Op. 16. The Symphony in C, Op. 13 /16 No. 5 (Riemann C5) is scored for the same forces as Op. 24 No. 3 and, like it, begins with an introduction marked Grave, of virtually the same length as its counterpart, but grander in style, as befits the imposing Allegro assai into which it leads and which has a beguiling second subject (in G) featuring the two oboes; there is a token ‘development’ of less than thirty bars but a reference, in tempo, to the slow introduction towards the end of the recapitulation. The slow movement, in C minor (but with, again, a pronounced inclination towards its relative major) is in binary form, with repeats (only the first of which is observed in this performance). The finale is a lively sonata-form Allegro in 3/8 metre, again with a subsidiary theme given to the oboes in thirds.

Symphony in G major, Op. 13/16, No. 4

1. Presto
2. Andantino
3. Prestissimo

The Symphony in G, Op. 13/16 No. 4 (Riemann G5) is scored for strings, two flutes and two horns and is the only one of the four recorded here to dispense with a slow introduction: instead, it launches straight into a genial Presto, with two not dissimilar waltz-like themes introduced in quick succession in the compact exposition, but with a surprisingly substantial development section of nearly eighty bars, and some classic examples of the famous ‘Mannheim crescendo’. This is followed by an elegant Andantino in D for strings, and by a bustling Prestissimo finale.

Symphony in D major, ‘La Chasse’

1. Grave - Allegro
2. Andante
3. Allegro moderato - Presto

The Symphony in D (Riemann D10), placed last on this disc, is the earliest of the four in the date of its publication (and presumably of its composition). It was issued by Sieber in Paris in 1772, as ‘Simphonie de chasse’ (‘Hunting symphony’), and is scored for strings, two oboes, two horns, two trumpets and timpani. The hunting atmosphere is vividly conveyed in the first movement (prefaced by a short but dignified slow introduction), an exuberant 6/8 Allegro, full of whooping horn-calls and chattering oboes, and even more so in the finale, again in 6/8 but marked Presto. They are separated by a genteel Andante in A for strings and horns, in the form of a slow rondo, with a minore episode.

Robin Golding (1995)