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Portrait of Stamitz


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, [1] 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." [2] 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." [3] 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.

The Sonatas

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]
This Sonata is set in four movements:  Adagio, Allegro, Largo, Minuet and Four Variations. Performed at a Gartenkonzert in Hof, this work may have been inspired by the novel Hesperus [4] by Jean Paul (Richter), who lived in Hof in 1792 before its writing. Jean Paul said of Carl Stamitz, "This great composer sweeps in narrower and narrower circles around the breast that holds the heart, until he finally reaches it, and in ecstacy embraces it."

Sonata a Due for Viola d'amore, with Violin or Viola accompaniment [No.2, "Marlborough"]
This work is in five movements: Allegro, Rondo Allegro (La Chasse), Andante moderato, Allegro, and Andante con Variazione (Marlbrough s'en va-t-en Guerre).  Most likely from his Paris years, it is unquestionably one of Stamitz's finest works for viola d'amore. This sonata brings out all of the technically virtuosic demands of the player. It is an utterly charming work from beginning to end. Not only does one hear rapid scale and broken chord passages, but left-hand pizziacato, harmonics, and some of those charming novelties of the Mannheim composers mentioned above. The second movement is based on the Halali  from La Chasse -- a melody taken from the music of the hunt in the time of Louis XV. Even more striking are the theme and variations on Marlborough s'en va-t-en Guerre [Marlborough Goes Off to War], an anonymous, derisive song, popular at the time. [5]

Sonata in E flat Major for Viola d'amore, Violin obbligato, Violin II, 2 Violas, 2 Flutes, 2 Horns, and Basso [No. 3]
The most curious feature of this very good work is its organization. The movements are: Allegro, Romanza, Allegro (Rondo). The first movement is scored for viola d'amore and violin only. In the second movement, Stamitz added the two horns, and about half way through the third movement, the remainder of the ensemble was added. The reason for this order of the instrumentation remains a mystery.

The Concertos

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
Like so many other composers through the ages, Stamitz "borrowed" melodies from himself. When we hear the opening of the first movement, we recognize it as a melody very similar to the opening of his Concerto for Viola, Op. 1, No. 1. But, after the first statement, this viola d'amore concerto goes its own way and amazes us with all kinds of brilliant features which "show off" the performer.  Left-hand pizzicati, harmonics, great descending runs and double stops are the norm. The Andante, the second movement, has the exact same melody as is found in the third movement of the Sonata a Due, the differences here being orchestral tutti passages. Even in this slow movement we hear again, left-hand pizzicati. The Rondo movement uses the same Halili that appears in the second movement of the Marlborough Sonata. Here, Stamitz engages us in a real romp. The spirited imitation of hunting horns on the part of the viola d'amore is reinforced even more by the actual natural horns in the orchestra.

Concerto No. 2 in D Major
Though a well-constructed work, this concerto tends to plod along, lacking the spirit and exhuberance of the first concerto. There is a spurt of humor near the end of the first movement, where Stamitz added a Mannheim novelty -- the Mannheim Steamroller. In this concerto's opening movement, Stamitz again "borrowed" a melody from himself. The melody here is the same as that of the fifth sketch of the Divertissement for Viola d'amore and Basso [discussed in "Miscellaneous Works for the Viola d'amore"]. The melodies for the second and third movements are original and not found in any other of his viola d'amore works.

Concerto No. 3 in D Major
The only existing score of this concerto was in the possession of a private party, and that score is a copy. The late Professor Karl Stumpf gave me a photocopy of his MS copy and explained that in 1948 he met Karl Stummvoll, the former professor of viola and viola d'amore at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, who gave him the manuscript copy. Tragically, Stummvoll later died in an aircrash and Stumpf was never able to find out about the original source of this.  Interestingly, the German publisher Paul Günther published Concerto No. 3 in 1935. This edition was obviously based on the same score as that owned by Karl Stumpf. There are certain details in this score that are not consistent with the MSS for Concertos No. 1 and 2:
a) the titles are in German rather than Stamitz's customary French or Italian,
b) the name Stamitz is misspelled as Stranitz,
c) the embellishments (turns, mordants, etc.) are all written out, whereas in Stamitz's original MS, their special cryptic signs were used.
However, there are striking similarities to Stamitz's style and technique.  All the same pyrotechnics that are found in his sonatas and other concertos are also found here. The first movement does not begin with an orchestral introduction as in the first two concertos. The opening melody is very calm and subdued. By the middle of the movement, however, frantic activity begins with all the expected fireworks. The second movement is lifted from the first movement of the Divertissement and its treatment of the lovely melody is not deeply worked out. The third movement is another story. Its opening melody is exactly the same as the Rondo melody of his Viola Concerto, Op. 1, No. 1 and the treatment of it in the viola d'amore version is present here. By far the most challenging work for this instrument by Stamitz, this movement requires the greatest skills of the performer.

Miscellaneous Works for Viola d'amore

Divertissement for Viola d'amore and Basso
This work exists in MS form as a collection of 10 sketches. The bass line, which would have been written as a separate part, is missing. What unquestionably points to the probable existence, orginally, of a bass line are the measures of rests throughout the various sketches. Of these, sketch numbers 1, 6, and 7 are quoted in other works of Stamitz. Paul Günther published a suite of these sketches (Leipzig, 1935) titled Divertissement für Viola d'amore (Bratsche) con Basso (including keyboard). The headings are: Adagio, Amoroso, Adagio, Adagio, Andantino-moderato, *Allegro (La Chasse), * Menuetto and Trio, *Andantino, *Adagio, *Allegretto. (These movements marked with asterisks are in the Günther edition.)

Quartet in D for Oboe, Violin, Viola d'amore and Cello
Considering its customary role, the viola d'amore in a quartet  setting is rather rare but not unknown. Franz Anton Hoffmeister (1754-1812), Martinides (18th century), Giovanni Toeschi (1727-1800) and Heinrich Ludwig Vetter (late 18th century) all wrote quartets which included the viola d'amore. This quartet, in this setting, is an arrangement of a work, first mentioned by the firm Sieber (Paris, 1785). The instrumentation in that edition, Op. 8, No. 4, in the key of E flat major, is for clarinet, violin, viola and cello. Another very old edition from the publishers Raabe und Plothow in Berlin offers the oboe as an alternative to the clarinet. A modern edition, Karl Steins, editor was offered by Bote u. Bock (Berlin/Wiesbaden, 1964) and another by Musica Rara (Kurt Janetsky, editor, London, 1958). In the 1950s, Hans Geis of Braunschweig, Germany, began work on the first version with viola d'amore. Unfortunately Geis died before he could finish the project or inform Karl Stumpf  (who had a copy of it in his private collection) of the origin of his manuscript. Myron Rosenblum of New York City completed his own edition of it a few years ago, based on the copy in Stumpf's library. Using the viola d'amore in place of the viola, this instrumentation results in an intriguing study of blends and contrasts. The oboe, violin and viola d'amore are equally scored and evenly distributed melodically. It is clearly not a solo piece for viola d'amore, since the oboe and violin have more prominent parts. The cello fills the role of a bass line. The movements are: Allegro, Andante, and Rondo.

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.
[2] Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed., vol. 5, p. 554. Burney called the orchestra "an army of Generals."
[3] Fritz Kaiser, "Karl Stamitz," Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Friedrich Blume, ed., Baerenreiter Verlag, 1965, XII, pp. 1157-61.
[4] 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."
[5] 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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