CARL PHILIPP STAMITZ (1745-1801)
"Men of Stamitz's caliber were indispensable"; E.T. Canby
Born in 1745 at Mannheim, Carl Stamitz was a son of the famous composer Johann Stamitz (1717-1757) of Bohemia. As early as the 1730s Johann Stamitz had made a name for himself, as a performer on the violin and the viola d'amore, and that may be the reason why in 1741 he was hired as musician for the Mannheim orchestra. It was at Mannheim that Johann Stamitz made his name internationally famous. He was responsible for music for the theatre, the church and the chamber, and working with such composers as Franz Xaver Richter, Anton Filtz and Ignaz Holzbauer, Johann Stamitz managed to turn the Mannheim orchestra into the finest of its day (‘an army of generals' as Burney remarked), developing a peculiar ‘Mannheim style' both in orchestral playing as well as in compositions. He composed, among other things, ca. 70 symphonies and ten orchestral trios (recordings of which are not that hard to come by, see discography below).
Carl Stamitz studied with his father and other Mannheim musicians and in 1762, 17 years old, he became a member of the Mannheim orchestra and played second violin there until 1770, thus becoming intimately familiar with the Mannheim school of orchestral playing and composing. He himself was to develop into the only composer of the ‘second Mannheim generation' (which included also his brother Anton Stamitz and Franz Beck [on whom see discography below]) who managed successfully to fuse the Mannheim style with developments occurring outside that city, developments with which he came into contact during his many ‘traveling years'; an example is his extensive use of rondos which he employed much more frequently than other Mannheimers, presumably as a result of his contact with French music during his Paris years.
The ‘traveling years' were the years 1770 to 1790. These were hectically active years during which he toured Europe as a virtuosi performer on the violin, viola, and viola d'amore (reaching, inter alia, Vienna in 1772 and 1774), publishing several of his works and occupying different positions, though never for very long (cf. Gerber's comment quoted below).
In 1770, he left Mannheim for Paris where he was to have great success. His compositions were performed, he regularly appeared at the Concerts Spirituel and was appointed court composer to the Duc de Noailles, a position he occupied until 1777. In Paris a sinfonie concertante of his was such a success during the early 1770s that it set the model for scores of such works to come, and in 1772 a double clarinet concerto (see discography below) became a ‘hit'. In Paris, his works began to be published, and his fame spread all the way to Scandinavia where his works were performed and sold in print before his death: in 1778 a sinfonie concertante by Stamitz was performed in Stockholm, Sweden, and a symphony of his was performed there in 1785; Stamitz works were advertised for sale in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1787. The Paris years may well be considered his heyday.
From 1777 to 1779 his home was, it seems, London where he also had compositions published. In around 1780, Stamitz moved to The Hague where in 1782-84 he appeared no less than 28 times at concerts performed at the local court. At one such concert in 1783 the pianist was a young man 12 years of age by the name of Ludwig van Beethoven (who received a higher salary than Stamitz!). At The Hague too he had compositions published. In 1786 Stamitz conducted Handel's ‘Messiah' in Berlin. From 1788 to 1790 he was again on the move, performing in Hamburg, Lübeck, Magdeburg, Leipzig, Berlin, Dresden, Halle, Nuremberg and Kassel where he was appointed musical director of the ‘Liebhaverkonzerte' (a position he left already in 1790) and met his future wife, Maria Josepha Pilz, with whom he had four children; not a single child survived infancy. The 1790s were difficult years which saw his wife ill and during which he failed to get appointments and was short of money, trying as he did to make a living primarily by selling his compositions. He spent his last years in Jena as Kapellmeister and teacher at the university. He died in Jena on November 9, 1801, surviving his wife by 10 months and leaving behind a large debt.
Stamitz was a prolific composer, in fact the most prolific Mannheim composer. A catalogue of his works was compiled as early as 1810, but has not survived. Besides some vocal music, he composed chamber music and orchestral music (see discography below).
His orchestral output includes no less than 60 concertos; but though he toured as a viola player, he left only a few concertos for this instrument; but he composed cello concertos (see discography below), flute concertos (7), bassoon concertos (7) and piano concertos, but most of his concertos are for the violin (15) and the clarinet (12; see discography below); like e.g. C.P.E. Bach, he frequently rearranged old works for new solo instruments.
He furthermore composed double concertos (30), and sinfonie concertantes (cf. Robbins Landon in H.C. Robbins Landon & D. Mitchell [eds.], The Mozart Companion [London & Boston 1956] p. 255) of which 38 authenticated are extant. His concertos date to the 1770s and 1780s, which is the most active period of his performing life.
However, by common consent the most important group of works are his symphonies, of which he composed more than 50, mostly in 3 movements without a menuetto, but many in two movements and a couple in four. 12 symphonies open with slow introductions. Among his symphonies are some composed to a ‘programme' and in this respect he resembles e.g. Dittersdorf. He also composed some orchestral quartets as well as orchestral trios.
He left a large corpus of chamber music of which at least the six flute trios Op. 14 have been recorded (by the Sonatori Ensemble, see discography below); a set of string quartets dates from 1774 and were published in Strassburg. Other genres represented include e.g.: quartetti concertanti; duos for flutes; duos for viola and cello; trios for two flutes and cello; quartets for bassoon & string trio; a trio for horn, violin & cello; quartets for clarinet & string trio; a viola sonata; quintets for obo, horn, two violins and cello; flute quartets; viola duets; string trios ... etc.
There is, apparently, no direct link between Mozart and Stamitz as there is between Mozart and Vanhal and Dittersdorf, not to mention Haydn. But, of course, the Mozarts knew of the Stamitzes. While Mozart was in Paris, Leopold asked Wolfgang by letter whether he had met the Stamitzes [Carl's brother Anton was at Paris too], which probably indicates that these were not considered nonentities by the elder Mozart. In a letter of July 9, 1778 Mozart replied as follows: "Of the two Stamitz brothers only the younger one [=Anton] is here, the elder [=Carl] (the real composer a la Hafeneder) is in London. They are indeed two wretched scribblers, gamblers, swillers and adulterers - not the kind of people for me. The one who is here has scarcely a decent coat to his back." Presumably, Wolfgang knew that he had once again disappointed Leopold's expectations and so went on the offensive by indicating that nothing had been lost by not meeting with the wretched swillers.
Against this may be set the testimony of another contemporary, the musical lexicographer E.L. Gerber, who in 1792 wrote about Carl Stamitz: "With what extraordinary art and facility he plays the viola! With what heavenly sweet tone and cantilena he enchants our ears with his viola d'amour - and with what fire and surety he plays the violin as Konzertmeister! Berlin, Dresden, many capitals and large cities are witness of his prowess! And he certainly would have been long attached to one of the German courts, if this artist's unusual dislike for all connections of this sort had not stood in the way of his entering an orchestra. Indeed, it is a great undertaking to live in Germany as a free artist. And he who tries and wishes to succeed must not have any less art than Stamitz ... in his relationships, as highly esteemed for his honorable and noble character, as for his art" (as quoted by Hope Sheridan). A comment that very much puts Stamitz on a par with Mozart and Vanhal in respect of attitude to nobility.
A curiosity: in his late years (always short of money!), Stamitz became interested in alchemy! If he did not manage to produce gold by chemistry, at least he made some of his compositions shine like gold. In spite of his early fame, his obvious gifts as a performer and composer and those sporadic experiments in alchemy, Carl Stamitz died so heavily in debt that his possessions had to auctioned to help pay his creditors. A printed catalogue of his music collection was printed for a separate auction in 1810 but the collection has long since disappeared.
The older Mannheimers:
Symphonies of J. Stamitz, F. Benda, and F.X. Richter: Classical Music in Bohemia: Stamic - Benda - Richter, OPUS 9350 1812
In the Naxos series ‘The 18th Century Symphony' are CDs of both symphonies and orchestral trios by J. Stamitz, e.g.: A. Johann Stamitz, Orchestral Trios Volume 1, Op. 1 nos. 1-3, Op. 4 no. 3, 8.553213; B. J. Stamitz, Symphonies Vol. 1 (5 symphonies and one orchestral trio, Op. 5 no. 3), 8.553194.
The ‘second Mannheim generation'
Five symphonies are found on Naxos, The 18th Century Symphony, 8.553790.
Cello concertos nos. 1-3: Mikael Ericsson, Suk Camber Orchestra/Petr Skvor, Panton 81 1002 2031.
A concerto for two clarinets: Franz and Erwin Klein and the Kölner Rundfunk-Orchester/Urs Schneider, Musica Mundi, CD 311 001 H1. This is the ‘Paris hit' of 1772.
Sabine Meyer and Academy of St.Martin-in-the-fields/Iona Brown have recorded two volumes of clarinet concertos: A. Johann & Carl Stamitz, Clarinet Concertos Vol. I, EMI 7 54842 2; B. Carl Stamitz, Clarinet Concertos Vol. II, EMI 5 55511 2 (two clarinet concertos, a concerto for basset horn, and a double concerto for clarinet and bassoon).
Four symphonies are recorded in the series ‘Contemporaries of Mozart' by the London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert, Chandos, Chan 9358.
A quartet for bassoon & string trio (Op. 19 no. 6) is included on: Baroque Favourites, Vivace E-530.
Op. 14, Six trios for flute, violin and basso continuo, are recorded by the Sonatori Ensemble, Multisonic 11 0159-2 133.
A quartetto concertante is found on Berlin Classics, Camerata Musica , 0093492BC, which also includes K.205 (175a).
Five ‘symphonies for wind instruments' are recorded by Consortium Classicum, CPO 999 081-2.
On old records, presumably much harder to find, but anyway:
Two concertante symphonies (Kaiser 9 & 19) are found (with K.364) on: Concertante, London Festival Orchestra/Ross Pople, DCA 650.
A quartet for obo, clarinet, horn and bassoon + selections from the Serenades Op. 28 are found on: Klingendes Barock, Mannheim, Amadeo AVRS 6359.
A concerto for viola + a sinfonia concertante are found on: Turnabout vox TV 34221.
A clarinet concerto, a bassoon concerto, and a flute concerto are found on: Turnabout TV 34093S.
A cello concerto (+ a piano concerto by Dussek) is found on: Turnabout TV 34362S.
A clarinet concerto is found on: Nonesuch, Virtuoso wind concertos, H-71148.
A sinfonia concertante (+ an a minor symphony by Vanhal) is found on: Nonesuch, The Legacy of the Mannheim School, H-71014.