Johann Stamitz (1717-1757)
Stamitz received his early schooling in N?mecký Brod, though his first musical instruction doubtless came from his father. From 1728 to 1734 he attended the Jesuit Gymnasium in Jihlava; the Jesuits of Bohemia, whose pupils included the foremost musicians in Europe, maintained high standards of musical education during this period. Stamitz is known to have spent the following academic year, 1734–5, at Prague University. His activities during the next six years, however, remain a mystery. It seems logical to assume that his decision to leave the university was prompted by a desire to establish himself as a violin virtuoso, a goal that could be pursued in Prague, Vienna or countless other centres.
The precise circumstances surrounding Stamitz’s engagement by the Mannheim court are unclear. The date of his appointment was probably 1741 (i.e. when he was 24), for he remarked in a letter of 29 February 1748 to Baron von Wallbrunn in Stuttgart that he was in his eighth year of service to the elector. The most likely hypothesis is perhaps that Stamitz’s engagement resulted from contacts made late in 1741 during the Bohemian campaign and coronation in Prague of the Bavarian Elector Carl Albert (later Carl VII), one of whose closest allies was the Elector Palatine. In January 1742 Stamitz no doubt performed at Mannheim as part of the festivities surrounding the marriage of Carl Theodor, who succeeded his uncle Carl Philipp as Elector Palatine less than a year later; Carl Albert of Bavaria was a guest at the wedding. He may also have played at the coronation ceremonies for Carl Albert in Frankfurt in February of that year. However, no contemporary evidence for either of these appearances exists; the earliest known reference to a public performance by Stamitz occurs in an advertisement for a concert in Frankfurt on 29 June 1742, at which he was to perform on the violin, viola d’amore, cello and double bass.
At Mannheim Stamitz advanced rapidly: in 1743, when he was first violinist at the court, he was granted an increase in salary of 200 gulden; in payment lists from 1744 and 1745 his salary is given as 900 gulden, the highest of any instrumentalist at Mannheim; in 1745 or early 1746 he was awarded the title of Konzertmeister; and in 1750 he was appointed to the newly created post of director of instrumental music. The latter promotion came almost two years after the offer of a position at the court of Duke Carl Eugen in Stuttgart with an annual salary of 1500 gulden, an offer that the Elector Palatine probably saw fit to match, as Stamitz remained in Mannheim. In court almanacs for 1751 and 1752 Stamitz is also listed as one of the two Kapellmeisters, but after the arrival of Ignaz Holzbauer in 1753 he appears as director of instrumental music alone. Stamitz’s principal responsibilities at court were the composition and performance of orchestral and chamber music, although he seems also to have composed some sacred music for the court chapel. As leader of the band and conductor Stamitz developed the Mannheim orchestra into the most renowned ensemble of the time, famous for its precision and its ability to render novel dynamic effects. Stamitz was also influential as a teacher; in addition to his sons Carl and Anton, he taught such outstanding violinists and composers as Christian Cannabich, the Toeschi brothers, Ignaz Fränzl and Wilhelm Cramer.
In 1744 Stamitz married Maria Antonia Lüneborn. They had five children: the composers (2) Carl and (3) Anton, a daughter Maria Francisca (1746–99) and two children who died in infancy. In 1749 Stamitz and his wife journeyed to N?mecký Brod to attend the installation of Stamitz’s younger brother Antonín Tadeáš as dean of the Dean’s church. In February 1750, while the family was still in Bohemia, Stamitz’s brother Václav Jan or Wenzel Johann (b 1724; d after 1771), also a musician, was in Mannheim. Johann Stamitz returned to Mannheim in March 1750, but his wife remained temporarily in N?mecký Brod, where (3) Anton Stamitz was born on 27 November 1750.
Probably in late summer 1754 Stamitz undertook a year-long journey to Paris, appearing there for the first time at the Concert Spirituel on 8 September 1754. (At least one work by Stamitz, a symphony with horns, trumpets and timpani, had already been performed in Paris, at the Concert Spirituel on 12 April 1751, but there is no evidence that he himself was present.) While in Paris Stamitz lived at Passy in the palace of A.-J.-J. Le Riche de La Pouplinière, a wealthy amateur whose private orchestra he conducted. He was also active in public concerts in Paris, appearing with particular success at the Concert Italien. Performances of his compositions were frequent, and his Mass was given on 4 August 1755. Stamitz’s success in Paris induced him to publish his ‘orchestral trios’ op.1 (fig.2), for which he received a royal privilege on 29 August 1755, and probably also to plan further publications with various Parisian houses. He presumably returned to Mannheim in autumn 1755, dying there less than two years later at the age of 39.
Stamitz’s most important compositions are his symphonies, some 58 of which are extant, and his ten orchestral trios. The latter works, though frequently classed as symphonies, actually occupy a position midway in style between the symphony and the chamber trio, and may be played with or without doubling of parts. Stamitz was also a prolific composer of concertos. These include, in addition to his numerous violin concertos, at least two for harpsichord (only one of which can be identified with certainty), 12 for flute (three of which were offered for sale by Breitkopf in alternative versions for violin), one for oboe (also listed by Breitkopf in versions for violin and flute), and one for clarinet, possibly the earliest solo concerto for that instrument. He also composed a large amount of chamber music for various instrumental combinations, as well as eight vocal works; among the latter is his widely circulated Mass in D, an ambitious setting in modern concerted style.
Owing to the complete lack of autograph manuscripts and the extreme paucity of dated sources, firm conclusions cannot be drawn about Stamitz’s evolution as a composer. His pre-Mannheim compositions probably comprise several of the extant symphonies for strings alone and most of the eight lost symphonies listed in a thematic catalogue from Brtnice (Pirnitz) in Moravia. Certain of his chamber works and concertos may also have originated from this period, providing him with material for use in performance, as may many of the vocal works that still survive in Czech collections. However, the great majority of his compositions obviously date from after his arrival in Mannheim. The somewhat conservative style of most of the concertos and sonatas, together with evidence regarding the chronology of his orchestral trios and advanced symphonies, suggests that Stamitz’s interest gradually shifted away from the composition of music intended for his personal use as a performer to the substantially different stylistic demands of the symphony and orchestral trio.
The principal innovation in Stamitz’s symphonic works is their adoption of the cycle of four movements, with a minuet and trio in third place followed by a Presto or Prestissimo. While isolated precedents for this succession exist, Stamitz was the first composer to use it consistently: well over half of his symphonies, and nine of his ten orchestral trios, are in four movements. The chief exceptions among the symphonies are the three-movement works characteristic of his early period (to c1745–8). It is noteworthy that Parisian prints of the later works often omit the minuets and trios found in the authentic manuscript sources.
Stamitz’s earliest symphonies and most of his concertos are scored for strings alone or for strings and two horns. His later symphonies generally call for a pair of horns and either oboes, flutes or (in several late works) clarinets, to which on five occasions he added a pair of trumpets and timpani. In conjunction with this expansion of the orchestra Stamitz gradually began to give more distinctive treatment to the wind instruments, for example handling them as sustaining instruments capable of providing a chordal background and support for the strings. The late symphonies place considerable emphasis upon striking dynamic effects, most notably the crescendo. Extended crescendo passages, almost certainly modelled on those of Nicolò Jommelli, occur in 14 of Stamitz’s symphonies, primarily works in his most advanced (and familiar) style. Stamitz’s treatment of orchestration and dynamics, combined with his forceful and vigorous rhythmic drive, represented a decisive new phase for the style of the concert symphony: the approach became manifestly orchestral rather than relying upon Baroque concerto style or the galant chamber idiom. Yet neither Stamitz nor the other Mannheim composers actually invented this style; it had already characterized a large number of Italian opera overtures from about 1730 to 1755 by such composers as Vinci, Leo, Jommelli and Galuppi, works that were staples of the operatic repertory at Mannheim during the 1740s and 50s. In the process of adaptation, however, Stamitz unquestionably extended and deepened every element of the overture style. For instance, he often introduced conspicuous solo passages for pairs of woodwind or horns in the first movements of all but his early symphonies; such emphasis upon the woodwind is rare in the Italian opera overture of the time.
Stamitz’s phrase structure shows a gradual expansion from an early hierarchy based on half-bar motifs and two-bar phrases (in 4/4 metre and allegro tempo) to a mature one containing most of the essentials of later Classical phrase syntax, founded on four-bar phrases, eight-bar sentences or periods and 16-bar double periods. The structure of the individual movements of Stamitz’s symphonies and orchestral trios has its basis in large-scale binary form, frequently modified in the later works by omission of the central double bar (and consequently of the repeats) and expansion of the second half of the movement. Thematic development of the type usually associated with later composers appears in Stamitz’s symphonies from every period. By contrast, he never consistently employed the principle of full recapitulation, although enough examples of this procedure exist to demonstrate his awareness of its possibilities. Perhaps by way of compensation, most of Stamitz’s first movements among his later works return towards the end of the movement to thematic material originally presented near the beginning. This material normally consists of a crescendo passage, but in a few instances the primary theme itself recurs. The occasional appearance of primary material near the end of a movement has given rise to the belief that Stamitz and the other Mannheimers frequently used ‘reversed’ or ‘mirror’ recapitulations. That is not statistically accurate; nor does it take account of the fact that the reorganization of the recapitulations in Stamitz’s late first movements nearly always amounts to far more than the mere reversal of primary and secondary themes.
Although Stamitz’s slow movements, dance movements and early finales are mostly homogeneous in style, the expositions of his first movements and more advanced finales regularly introduce contrasting thematic material – including, in just over half of these movements, a clearly articulated and differentiated secondary theme. This approach also originated in the Italian opera overture, which had used polythematic expositions since at least the 1730s. Once again, though, Stamitz went well beyond his model, often scoring his secondary themes for wind instruments and, in his latest works, increasing their lyricism substantially.
In sum, Stamitz’s contribution in the particular areas of thematic differentiation, orchestration and dynamics may be defined as the transfer and adaptation of Italian overture style to the concert symphony, rather than as actual innovation. Charles Burney, writing some 15 years after Stamitz’s death, stated this viewpoint:
It was here [in concerts at Mannheim] that Stamitz, stimulated by the productions of Jomelli, first surpassed the bounds of common opera overtures, which had hitherto only served in the theatre as a kind of court cryer, with an ‘O Yes’ in order to awaken attention, and bespeak silence, at the entrance of the singers.
To recognize Stamitz’s debt to Italian overture style is in no way to belittle his achievement, for in the process of adaptation he greatly enriched and refined every element of that style; but it enables Stamitz’s symphonies to be placed in a more valid historical context than that proposed by Riemann and others. Moreover, the imagination, vitality and craftsmanship evident in Stamitz’s symphonies and orchestral trios were rarely surpassed by either contemporary symphonists or his more stylized followers at Mannheim. To quote Burney again:
He [Stamitz], like another Shakespeare, broke through all difficulties and discouragements; and, as the eye of one pervaded all nature, the other, without quitting nature, pushed art further than any one had done before him; his genius was truly original, bold, and nervous; invention, fire, and contrast, in the quick movements; a tender, graceful, and insinuating melody, in the slow; together with the ingenuity and richness of the accompaniments, characterise his productions; all replete with great effects, produced by an enthusiasm of genius, refined, but not repressed by cultivation.
3. Problems of attribution.
Because at least five other musicians of the 18th century bore the surname Stamitz – four from Stamitz’s immediate family – and because few manuscripts of the time supplied first names, any attempt to enumerate Stamitz’s authentic works is hazardous at best, particularly in view of the many variations in spelling. Actually, few difficulties arise in distinguishing between works by Johann Stamitz and those of his sons Carl and Anton. By contrast, the relationship of the names ‘Steinmetz’ and ‘Stamitz’ has caused considerable confusion, as at least two other musicians called ‘Steinmetz’ lived in the 18th century. The list of works below includes most of those compositions attributed in the sources to ‘Steinmetz’ for the following reasons. First, the two names were constantly interchanged in the 18th century, as seen both in the numerous references to Stamitz (even at Mannheim) in the form ‘Steinmetz’ and in the large number of works indisputably by Johann Stamitz attributed to ‘Steinmetz’ in concordant sources. Second, the notion that Johann Erhard Steinmetz, an oboe player in the Dresden hunting band, was a composer of symphonies derives primarily from J.G.I. Breitkopf, whose reliability on this point is demonstrably low. Third, analysis of the style of those works ascribed to ‘Steinmetz’ for which no concordant sources exist generally reveals an unmistakable connection to authentic works of Johann Stamitz – but to works in his relatively unfamiliar early style.
printed works published in Paris unless otherwise stated; for thematic catalogue see Gradenwitz: ‘Johann Stamitz’ (1936), ii, and ‘Johann Stamitz’ (1984); symphonies and orchestral trios also catalogued with incipits by Riemann (DTB, iv, Jg.iii/1, 1902/R) and Wolf (1981), and chamber music by Riemann (DTB, xxviii, Jg.xvi, 1915/R)
Syms.: 6 as op.2 (1757), reissued as op.3 (1757), 2 ed. in DTB, iv, Jg.iii/1 (1902), 5 ed. A. Badley (Wellington, 1996); 4 [and 2 orch trios] as op.4 (1758), ed. A. Badley (Wellington, 1995), 1 ed. in DTB, xiii, Jg.vii/2 (1906), 3 ed. in The Symphony 1720–1840, ser. C, iii (New York, 1984), 1 ed. W. Upmeyer (Berlin-Lichterfelde, n.d.); 2 [and orch trio] in Six symphonies … de différents auteurs, op.5 (1759), 1 ed. in DTB, xiii, Jg.vii/2 (1906), 1 ed. A. Badley (Wellington, 1998); 6 as op.7 (1763), 3 ed. A. Badley (Wellington, 1997–8); 6 as op.8 (1763), 2 ed. in The Symphony 1720–1840, ser. C, iii (New York, 1984), 5 ed. A. Badley (Wellington, 1997) [1 by F.X. Richter, ed. in DTB, iv, Jg.iii/1 (1902)]; 3 as op.11 (c1771–2) [first pubd in VI sinfonie … intitolate La melodia germanica … da vari autori, op.11 (1758)], 1 ed. in DTB, iv, Jg.iii/1 (1902), 1 ed. in DTB, xiii, Jg.vii/2 (1906); 1 as Simphonie périodique, pubd La Chevardière no.12 (1760); 1 as Simphonia, pubd Huberty no.9 (1762); 30 in MS, incl. A-LA, ST, Wgm, B-Bc, CH-Bu, CZ-Pnm, D-Bsb, DO, DS, HR, Rtt, RUl, SWl, F-CSM, S-Skma, US-Wc, 2 ed. in Corona, xxxviii (1957), nos.2–3 [no.1 by A. Mahaut]
10 orch trios (all ed. A. Badley, Wellington, 1995): 6 sonates à 3 parties concertantes, 2 vn, bc, op.1 (1755), ed. in Collegium musicum, i–vi (Leipzig, 1903), 1 ed. in DTB, iv, Jg.iii/1 (1902), 2 ed. C. Döbereiner (Mainz, 1936–7); 1 in VI sinfonie … da vari autori, op.9 (1757), ed. in Collegium musicum, xlix (Leipzig, 1911); 2 in Six symphonies, op.4 (1758), 1 ed. in Collegium musicum, xlviii (Leipzig, 1911); 1 in Six symphonies … de différents auteurs, op.5 (1759), ed. in Collegium musicum, vii (Leipzig, 1904)
Concs.: 6 for vn (Paris, 1763–4), nos.3–5 lost, but probably preserved in MSS in CZ-K, S-Skma; 8 for vn, A-ST, CZ-K, Pnm, D-Dlb, DO, S-Skma, US-Wc, 1 ed. in Concertino (1964), 1 ed. W. Lebermann (Locarno, 1965); 4 for vn extant only in alternate versions, incl. 3 for fl (1 of which also arr. for va D-EB), 1 for ob [see below]; 1 for fl (London, c1770), ed. W. Lebermann (London, 1961); 3 for fl, D-KA, Rtt, F-Pc [also listed as vn concs. in Breitkopf catalogue (1762)], 1 ed. in EDM, 1st ser., li (1964); 8 for fl, A-LA, CH-EN, D-KA, Rtt, RH, 1 ed. H. Kölbel (Zürich, 1966); 1 for ob [also listed as vn and fl concs. in Breitkopf catalogues (1762–3)], ed. H. Töttcher and H.F. Hartig (Hamburg, 1957); 1 for cl, Rtt, ed. in Concertino (1967); ?4 for kbd in Six Concertos … by J. Stamitz (London, c1775) [no.4 by J.J. Agrell, no.6 by J.G. Lang; probably incl. 2 hpd concs. listed in catalogues of La Chevardière (c1763–4)], 1 (also pubd The Hague, c1767) ed. K. Schultz-Hauser (Mainz, 1981) and R. Walter (Vienna, 1986)
Other orch: 2 pastorellas, Rtt; 12 minuets, 13 polonaises, A-Wn, SK-TR, doubtful
Trios: 6 for vn, fl, bc (n.d.); 1 for vn, fl, bc, B-Bc; 4 for 2 vn, bc, CZ-Pnm, D-DS, KA, S-Skma; 2 for 2 fl, bc, B-Bc, D-HR; 1 for ob, vn, bc, US-Wc
Sonatas: 6 sonate da camera, vn, bc, op.6 (c1759), facs. in ECCS, v (1991) [also as 6 Solos (London, c1767)], 1 ed. in DTB, xxviii, Jg.xvi (1915), 1 ed. in MAB, xxviii (1956), 1 ed. in Böhmische Violinsonaten, ed. S. Gerlach and Z. Pilková, i (Munich, 1982); 5 for vn, bc, B-Bc, F-Pc; ?6 for vc, bc, D-SWl, doubtful; ?1 for vn, hpd (London, c1770) [also attrib. C.H. Graun, J.G. Neruda]
Other chbr: 2 divertissements en duo, vn solo (1762), ed. E. Zetlin (New York, 1949); 6 fl duets (London, c1775); caprices, vn solo, A-Wgm, Wn, D-Bsb, Rome, Fondo Monachesi, doubtful; 8 minuets, 1 polonaise, D-DS, doubtful
Liturgical: Mass, D, 4vv, chorus, orch, org, A-Gd, D-Bsb, I-MOe, ed. in DTB, new ser., iii (1980); Kyrie–Gloria, 4vv, orch, org, CZ-ME; Litanie lauretanae, D, 4vv, 2 vn, 2 clarini, b, org, Pnm; Lytaniae lauretanae (Solenne), C, 4vv, 2 vn, b, org, CZ-ME, Pnm, SK-Mms; Offertorium [Motetto] de venerabili sacramento, 4vv, orch, org, CZ-Pak, Psj, SK-Mms, ed. in DTB, new ser., iii (1980)
Other vocal: Cantata, B solo, orch, D-F; Aria de omni tempore, S, orch, CZ-Pnm
Lost works incl. at least 10 syms.; 5 partitas; 1 pastorella, vn obbl; ?7 vn concs.; fl conc.; ?1 hpd conc.; 3 vn sonatas; vn sonata, hpd obbl, doubtful; Omni die, aria, B solo, orch