The Viola d'amore and the Stamitz Family
by Dr. Daniel Thomason, Culver City, CA
To fully appreciate the role of the viola d'amore during the 18th century, we need to be aware of the significance of Johann and Carl Stamitz in relation to the instrument and its music. They represent, and Carl in particular, the last phase of the performance of and literature for the viola d'amore during that century. The viola d'amore had been introduced into the musical establishment during the last years of the 17th century. Some of the earliest composers for the instrument were Franz Ignaz Biber (1644-1704), Attilio Ariosti (1666-1740), Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767), Christoph Graupner (1683-1760), and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). As the 18th century evolved, others continued the interest in the composition of viola d'amore music. Among them were Jan Krumlovsky (1719-1763), Louis-Toussaint Milandre (18th century), and Franz Simon Schuchbauer (c.1739-1796), From approximately 1770 until the end of the century there were two outstanding representatives among virtuoso viola d'amore players: Friedrich Wilhelm Rust (1739-1796) and Carl Philipp Stamitz (1745-1801). To appreciate the highly-gifted Carl, we must first turn to his father and mentor, Johann.
Johann Wenzell Stamitz [Jan Vaclav Stamic] (1717-1757) was from Deutschbrod, Bohemia. He was a virtuoso violinist, violist, viola d'amore player and violone player. He left Bohemia in his early twenties and in 1741 joined the violin section of the Mannheim Court Orchestra,  the benefactor of which was the Elector Karl Theodor (1724-1799). In 1742, the same year he was appointed Kammermusiker, Stamitz gave a concert in Frankfurt am Main in which he performed on the violin, viola, viola d'amore and violone. By 1745, he was the Konzertmeister. That same year, he married Maria Antonia Luenenborn and in the following years they had five children, the oldest being Carl Philipp. Their second son was Anton Tadeas (1750-1809) who also became a musician. By 1750 Johann was the Direktor of instrumental music. As such, Stamitz was also responsible for composing music for the group, and he gradually hired new orchestral musicians, some of whom were composers as well. Many of these musicians were also from Bohemia. This powerful alliance of composer-musicians was known as The Mannheim School.
For 33 years (1745 until c.1778) the orchestra and school went through three phases. During the earliest phase, under the leadership of Johann Stamitz and his colleagues Franz Xavier Richter (1709-1789) and Ignaz Holzbauer (1711-1783), they helped lay the groundwork for a new style of composition. The extraordinary excellence of the highly-disciplined players prompted Charles Burney to call them "an army of Generals."  When I speak of the "new style," I am referring in part to the embryonic beginnings of what was later to become Sonata-Allegro form. Even the Viennese School of composition was experimenting with this new form. Essentially, the Mannheimers perfected the semi-sonata-allegro form which employed a grouping of melodic ideas with short recapitulation and coda sections. What was lacking, but later realized, was the development section. Nonetheless, these early Mannheim composers were well on their way to the development of the symphony as it was known by the time of Haydn and Mozart. Using a four-movement structure, they also introduced many novel ideas, such as sudden crescendos and decrescendos; crescendos with subito piano releases; the Mannheim Steamroller (an ostinato bass line); the Mannheim Sigh (a mannered treatment of the Baroque practice of putting more weight on the first of two notes in descending pairs of slurred notes); the Mannheim Rocket (rapidly ascending broken chords from the lowest range of the bass line to the very top of the soprano line); the Mannheim Birds (imitation of birds chirping in solo passages in a very high tessitura); and last but not least, the Grand Pause (a sudden stop of the playing, resulting in total silence, only to restart again with great vigor). Not all of these devices which became synonymous with the Mannheim style were necessarily "invented" by the Mannheimers, but they were used by them almost to the point of becoming mannerisms. These devices were frequently used by Carl Stamitz in his wonderful compositions for viola d'amore.
During his tenure at Mannheim, Johann Stamitz made two tours to Paris with his virtuoso orchestra and performed there in the Concerts Spirituels which featured the most highly-regarded musicians of the day. On his second tour in the autumn of 1754, Stamitz played his own Sonata for Viola d'amore. It has long been known that Johann Stamitz wrote viola d'amore music but his scores have not been positively identified. There are two compositions, however, which point very strongly to him: a string quartet and a Nocturne, both featuring the viola d'amore. It is my educated guess that besides tutoring his two sons on violin and viola, that he also taught his sons the viola d'amore. The process of teaching and nurturing his sons' musical development came to a sudden and sad end when on March 27, 1757, Johann died a premature death in Mannheim.
Carl Stamitz and his younger brother Anton continued their musical training in Mannheim under the tutelage of Franz Beck (1730-1809), Anton Filtz (1730-1860) and Christian Cannabich (1731-1798). With Cannabich replacing Johann Stamitz as Konzertmeister and Direktor of the orchestra, the orchestra entered its second phase. Both brothers were such excellent violinists that they too became members of the orchestra. Within the next few years, the third and final phase of the orchestra emerged. Added to the roster of excellent violinists was Carl Josef Toeschi (1724-1788), who joined in 1752 and became Konzertmeister/Direktor in 1759. In 1770, the Stamitz brothers decided to go out on their own as performing musicians, and in Anton's case, as a teacher of violin. Their early travels took them to Strassbourg and eventually to Paris. They both performed frequently in the Concert Spirituels, and each brother focused on quite different aspects of music-making. Carl was quickly appointed Kapellmeister in the service of Duke Louis of Noailles. (Although Carl was in and out of Paris over the next few years, he always referred to himself as "Kapellmeister to the Duc de Noailles.") Anton remained in Paris and turned his attention to violin teaching; his most famous pupil was Rudolf Kreutzer. While in Paris, Carl absorbed the French taste for music of the nobility and the common people alike. As we shall see, he incorporated some of this music into his own compositions.
The music for viola d'amore by Carl Stamitz has no opus numbers; none of it was published in his lifetime. It is safe to say that he saved it for his own exclusive use. His compositions for viola d'amore fall into three categories: Sonatas, of which there are three; three Concertos, although the third is only attributed to Carl Stamitz; and three miscellaneous pieces, all of mysterious origin. In a certain sense, Carl Stamitz was an anachronism. The forms used by him were those he learned as a student in Mannheim. For example, by 1770 Haydn and Mozart were using the fully-developed sonata-allegro form, whereas Stamitz was still using the old semi-sonata-allegro forms of his mentors. As Louis Spohr said of Stamitz, "He was already old-fashioned."  However, he was a fine musician and excellent composer. Beyond the realm of the viola d'amore, he is mainly remembered for his works in the Sinfonia concertante style, his symphonies, his chamber works and operas. He had a special affinity for the clarinet, woodwind chamber music, as well as for the violin and viola.
Because of the lack of opus numbers, it is difficult to place the compositions in any chronological order. The three sonatas are therefore listed here in random order.
Sonata for Viola d'amore and Basso [No. 1]
Sonata a Due for Viola d'amore, with Violin or Viola accompaniment [No.2, "Marlborough"]
Sonata in E flat Major for Viola d'amore, Violin obbligato, Violin II, 2 Violas, 2 Flutes, 2 Horns, and Basso [No. 3]
The scoring for all three concertos is for Viola d'amore, 2 Flutes, 2 Horns and Strings. Each concerto has three movements: Allegro, Andante and a Rondo.
Concerto No. 1 in D Major
Concerto No. 2 in D Major
Concerto No. 3 in D Major
Miscellaneous Works for Viola d'amore
Divertissement for Viola d'amore and Basso
Quartet in D for Oboe, Violin, Viola d'amore and Cello
Adagio in G Major for Viola d'amore and Basso
In the MS following the end of Sonata No. 1, there appears a movement, probably an Adagio, which has no connection to the sonata. It is in ABA form and may have been intended for use in another work. The melody groups are quite lovely and impart a dreamy, languid mood. To date, it has not been published.
 Jan Vaclav Stamic, Zivot A. Dilo, Katalog Vystavy, Cerven Cervenec, 1969.
 Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed., vol. 5, p. 554. Burney called the orchestra "an army of Generals."
 Fritz Kaiser, "Karl Stamitz," Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Friedrich Blume, ed., Baerenreiter Verlag, 1965, XII, pp. 1157-61.
 See Hans Bach, Saemtliche Werke, Weimar, 1935, vol. 3, p. xxxiv. Jean Paul wrote: "Dieser grosse Komponist geht in immer engern Kreisen um die Brust, in der Herz ist, bis er sie endlich erreicht Entzückungen umschlingt."
 For the complete text, see Vielles Chansons et Rondes Francaises, selected and arranged by Rene Deloup, Edition Schott 2911 (1939).
Music of Carl Stamitz for Viola d'amore Listed Under Other Headings
La Chasse for Viola d'amore and Piano is an arrangement by Cor Kint of the last movement of the Concerto No. 1, published by Paul Günther, Leipzig, c. 1930.
Andantino published by Günther (c. 1930), in the collection titled Alte Meister für Viola d'amour [sic] und Gambe, is the fifth movement from the Divertissement.
In the collection Alte Meister für Viola d'amore, arranged by M.L. Goldis (Edition Weinberger, Leipzig, 1917), there appear five works by Carl Stamitz, all taken from the Divertissement. Numbers 33, 34, 35, 36, and 37 are movements 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 respectively from the Divertissement.
A work with a spurious attribution, Concerto in D by Karl-Ritter von Esser, is identical with Stamitz's Concerto in D. It is not by Esser. This "copy" with the incorrect name of the composer is found in the British Museum, under the listing ADD 32317.
Sonata in A Major (Günther, Leipzig, 1930) is scored for viola d'amore and cembalo, but it is really a transcription of the Sonata in B flat major for Alto Viola and Cembalo.
Copyright by Daniel Thomason, 2005
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