Johann Stamitz and sons
The story of Johann Stamitz and his two sons, Carl and Anton.
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.
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.
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.