Donald Macleod traces the early career of Johann Stamitz, who revolutionised the sound of the orchestra in the 18th century with his work at the Mannheim Court.
The various members of the Stamitz family are not exactly household names today. But during the eighteenth century, Stamitz was one of the most famous and celebrated names in music, with a dynasty of composers working all over Europe.
This week, Donald Macleod tells the rags-to-riches-and-back-to-rags-again tale of the most successful Stamitz - Johann - and his two sons, Carl and Anton. It's a story which begins with fame and fortune. Johann quickly achieved a reputation across Europe and was snapped up by the Mannheim Court, which was home to the best orchestra in Europe at the time, the envy of the world. According to Dr Charles Burney, ".. there are more solo players and good composers in this, than perhaps in any other orchestra in Europe; it is an army of generals, equally fit to plan a battle as to fight it." Together, "this extraordinary band" and their director set about revolutionizing the sound of the orchestra and its repertoire.
As the series unfolds, the glittering success of Johann ends in a tragically early death, and we meet his two sons, Carl and Anton, neither of whom could match their father's achievements. Anton must have thought he had it made when he got a job with the King's Music at the French court. The timing was unfortunate though - this was the 1780s and working for the French king was about to become rather less prestigious than it had been for the previous several centuries. Anton managed to escape the Revolution intact, but the lives of both brothers ended unhappily, childless, alone, in poverty - a sad end to a fascinating journey through one family's rise and fall, against the backdrop of glorious eighteenth century music.
1: Bohemian Emergent. In the first episode, Donald traces the early career of the most successful of the Stamitzes - Johann - who single-handedly revolutionized the sound of the orchestra in the eighteenth century, thanks to his work at the Mannheim Court.
Symphony in G major (1st movement)
TELDEC 3984-28366-2 T11
Alsfelder Vokalensemble, Barockorchester Bremen, Wolfgang Helbich (conductor)
CPO 999 471-2 T17-24
Viola Concerto in G
Jan Peruska (viola), Prague Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, Jiri Belohlavek (conductor)
PANTON 81 1422-2 131 T4-6
Symphony in A major A3
New Zealand Chamber Orchestra, Donald Armstrong (conductor)
NAXOS 8.553194 T12-14.
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