Carl (Philipp) Stamitz
(b Mannheim, bap. 8 May 1745; d Jena, 9 Nov 1801). Composer and violinist, viola player and viola d’amore player, son of (1) Johann Stamitz. He was a leading member of the second generation of Mannheim orchestral composers, a widely travelled performer and a major contributor to the literature of the symphonie concertante and concerto.
Carl Stamitz received his earliest musical training in Mannheim from his father, but was only 11 when his father died. His subsequent teachers were other court musicians: Christian Cannabich, Ignaz Holzbauer and F.X. Richter. Extant orchestral lists include Stamitz as a violinist with the electoral orchestra from 1762 to 1770, a position that enabled him to learn the contemporary Mannheim repertory and master a brilliant performing technique.
In 1770 Stamitz went to Paris, stopping en route to perform in Mons. By 1771 he was court composer and conductor for Duke Louis of Noailles in Paris, where he came in contact with such musicians as Gossec, Leduc, Sieber and Beer. In addition to publishing many new compositions in Paris, both Stamitz and his brother (3) Anton were active performers at the Concert Spirituel in the 1770s. Between 1771 and 1773 the Mercure de France reported appearances of both brothers as well as performances of their compositions, but often without distinguishing clearly between Carl and Anton. In summer 1772 Stamitz lived at Versailles, where he composed La promenade royale, the first of several programme symphonies. During his tenure with the Duke of Noailles, journeys as a virtuoso took him in 1772 to Vienna, in 1773 to Frankfurt, and in 1774 to Augsburg, Vienna and also Strasbourg, where he published six quartets and delivered compositions to Ignaz von Beecke for Prince Kraft Ernst von Oettingen-Wallerstein. Carl or possibly Anton performed again at the Concert Spirituel on 2 February, 25 March and 7 April 1775; the Mercure de France described a concert on 24 December 1775 at which a ‘grande symphonie nouvelle de M. Stamitz l’aîné’ was performed with the composer himself as one of the brilliant violinists. Additional references occur until March 1777. Stamitz’s years of relative security had come to a close; henceforth he lived the life of a travelling virtuoso, never holding an important permanent position.
Stamitz’s departure from Paris has not been precisely documented, but newspaper advertisements show that he was an active performer in London at least from May 1777 until 1780, often in association with J.C. Bach. On 6 April 1778 he gave a benefit concert of his own at the King’s Theatre. While in London he published many compositions, especially chamber works, continuing to list himself as composer to the Duke of Noailles. Some time after 1780 he moved to The Hague, where between May 1782 and July 1784 he appeared, primarily as a viola soloist, in no fewer than 28 concerts at the court of William V, Prince of Orange. The concert on 23 November 1783 featured not only Stamitz but Beethoven (aged 12), who played the piano and received a higher payment than his older colleague. Many compositions written by Stamitz during this period were published by B. Hummel of The Hague.
By April 1785 Stamitz had arrived in Hamburg, where he gave two academies. In August he performed in Lübeck, returning to Hamburg for two final concerts in the autumn. On 17 April 1786 he was in Magdeburg; he then went to Leipzig and to Berlin, where on 19 May 1786 he joined J.A. Hiller in directing a performance of Handel’s Messiah in the cathedral. At this time, according to Gerber, Stamitz negotiated a contract (as yet undiscovered) with the King of Prussia that guaranteed payment for any work composed by him for the Berlin court. Nor is there conclusive evidence to support Gerber’s claim that in 1787 Stamitz held the title of Kapellmeister to the Prince of Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, although it is found on a printed concert announcement of 1792 and in his death notice.
In 1787 Stamitz travelled widely, performing as a viola player in Dresden, Prague and Halle, and appearing in Nuremberg on 3 November 1787 for a performance of his musical allegory on the occasion of Blanchard’s balloon ascent. Concert reviews from 1788 and 1789 report his appearance as a viola player in Kassel. In 1789 he became director of the Liebhaber concerts there, a position he retained until April 1790.
Some time before 1790 Stamitz married Maria Josepha Pilz (b 1764; d Jena, 17 Jan 1801), and they settled in Greiz, Voigtland, where their first son was born in August 1790. The birth of a daughter by July 1792 and the illness of his wife prevented him from travelling extensively, and he tried unsuccessfully to obtain a permanent court position from Friedrich Franz I, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. He continued to earn what little he could by sending compositions to the King of Prussia (fig.3), the Prince of Orange, the court at Schwerin and the court of Oettingen-Wallerstein, and succeeded in arranging two concerts, one on 12 November 1792 at the Hoftheater in Weimar, the other on 19 March 1793 in Leipzig. Letters to Breitkopf on 30 April and 6 May 1793 seeking help in producing operas and concerts or in finding a permanent position in Leipzig were of no avail.
A trip back to Mannheim before spring 1795 brought a variety of commissions, as mentioned in Stamitz’s letter to Breitkopf of 28 May 1795 from Jena, where he had moved with his family to become Kapellmeister and teacher of music at the university. This post was not sufficient to settle his affairs, however, and he sent compositions as far as Wales and Russia in hope of compensation. Stamitz even planned a concert tour to St Petersburg, but the letter sanctioning the trip did not arrive until after his death. Two sons born in Jena, like Stamitz’s other children, died in childhood.
Despite Stamitz’s earlier fame and his plans for grandiose concerts and travels – and even attempts at alchemy – his debts at the time of his death were so great that his possessions had to be auctioned. A printed catalogue of his music manuscripts was published for a separate auction in 1810, but the mode of the times had changed, and the music was neither bid for nor bought privately. The collection remained in Jena until 1812, but since then has disappeared.
Stamitz composed nearly as many chamber as orchestral works, but his reputation as a composer derives principally from the latter. His over 50 symphonies, 38 symphonies concertantes and more than 60 concertos make him the most prolific orchestral composer from Mannheim. On the whole his compositions reflect his Mannheim heritage, as seen in their idiomatic treatment of the orchestra, dynamic effects, homophonic texture, contrasting thematic types and specific Mannheim melodic clichés. Yet his years in Paris and London fostered the bulk of his compositions – in particular the popular symphonie concertante – and such characteristics of his style as pervasive lyricism and ease of melodic flow (often bordering on the superficial) place his music in a more cosmopolitan context than that of Mannheim alone.
Stamitz’s instrumentation is standard for the time, but exceptions to the norm do occur: the Masquerade Symphony (c1781) employs an expanded percussion section to simulate Turkish music, and there are two works for double orchestra. Unlike his father, over half of whose symphonies are in four movements, Stamitz adopted the three-movement Italian pattern (fast–slow–fast) in almost all his extant orchestral works: only four symphonies use a minuet and trio as third movement (two others are programmatic works with relatively free structure), and eight of the 28 surviving symphonies concertantes are in two movements, a plan common in this genre, rather than three.
Stamitz’s earliest symphonies date from his Mannheim years, and the last from Greiz in 1791. Like his contemporaries at Mannheim, he generally cast his first movements and finales in binary sonata form (like sonata form but with only partial recapitulation), often without repeat signs. 12 of his symphonies have slow introductions; in the early and middle-period symphonies there is often a rhythmic or motivic relationship between the introduction and first movement. In first movements Stamitz made relatively consistent use of contrasting secondary themes in the dominant, commonly set off by a reduction in orchestration and often featuring wind instruments in 3rds. Development sections are seldom extensive, and they tend to avoid concentrated reworking of material from the exposition; instead, they are closely linked formally to the recapitulation and frequently introduce episodic material. A few symphonies omit developments entirely. Most of Stamitz’s recapitulations begin with the second theme, though examples of full recapitulation can be found in symphonies throughout his career.
Stamitz’s second movements were praised by his contemporaries for their lyricism and expressiveness. Sentimental appoggiaturas are frequent, and over a quarter of these movements are in minor keys. Simple binary and binary sonata structures are typical. Stamitz’s last movements resemble his first in form except in the case of seven symphonies that close with rondos.
Of Stamitz’s 38 known symphonies concertantes, 30 call for two solo instruments (most often a pair of violins or a violin and cello), the others as many as seven. First movements follow the basic ritornello structure common in the 18th-century solo concerto, with three or four tutti sections in various keys framing modulatory or recapitulatory solo sections. Stamitz used two types of finale: the norm is a rondo, but in five works there are minuets and trios, adapted in various ways to incorporate the soloists. He used rondos in his orchestral works more often than other composers from Mannheim, presumably a result of his extensive contact with French music during the 1770s.
Stamitz wrote solo concertos for a wide range of instruments, including violin (15), clarinet (10), flute (8) and bassoon (7); many of these works are lost. His orchestral and chamber compositions for viola d’amore, an instrument with which the composer was especially identified, are historically important for their use of all seven strings, double and triple stops, left-hand pizzicato and harmonics.
H. Riemann: Forewords, DTB, xv, Jg.viii/2 (1907/R); xxvii, Jg.xv (1914/R)
F. Waldkirch: Die konzertanten Sinfonien der Mannheimer im 18. Jahrhundert (Ludwigshafen, 1931)
A. Schering: ‘Fünf Briefe von Karl Stamitz: Bruchstücke einer Selbstbiographie’, Festschrift Fritz Stein, ed. H. Hoffmann and F. Rühlmann (Brunswick, 1939), 57–65
P. Gradenwitz: ‘The Stamitz Family: some Errors, Omissions, and Falsifications Corrected’, Notes, vii (1949–50), 54–64
H. Heussner: Review of H.J. Schaefer and others: Theater in Kassel (Kassel, 1951), Mf, xv (1962), 287–9
F.C. Kaiser: Carl Stamitz (1745–1801): biographische Beiträge, das symphonische Werk, thematischer Katalog der Orchesterwerke (diss., U. of Marburg, 1962)
J. Záloha: ‘Drei unbekannte Autographe von Karl Stamitz in der Musikaliensammlung in ?eský Krumlov’, Mf, xix (1966), 408–11
M. Rosenblum: ‘The Viola d’amore and its Literature’, The Strad, lxxviii (1967), 250–53, 277
M. de Smet: La musique à la cour de Guillaume V, Prince d’Orange (1748–1806) (Utrecht, 1973)
E. Wellesz and F.Sternfeld, eds.: The Age of Enlightenment, 1745–1790, NOHM, vii (1973)
D. Thomason: A Discussion of the Viola d’Amore Music of Karl Stamitz (n.p., 1979)
M. Jacob: Die Klarinettenkonzerte von Carl Stamitz (Wiesbaden, 1991)
C. White: From Vivaldi to Viotti: a History of the Early Classical Violin Concerto (Philadelphia, 1992)
D.R. Rhodes: ‘Carl Stamitz and the Mecklenburg-Schwerin Court at Ludwigslust’, Musik in Mecklenburg, ed. K. Heller, H. Möller and A. Waczkat (Hildesheim, 1999), 489–510