Home » Uncategorized » Carl Stamitz and his Clarinet Concerto No. 3

Carl Stamitz and his Clarinet Concerto No. 3

     Karl or Carl Philipp Stamitz (baptized  May 8, 1745 –November 9, 1801) was a German composer of partial Czech ancestry.  His father was Johann Stamitz (1717–1757), a Czech violinist and composer of the pre-classical area who lived in Germany, and his mother was German.  Carl Stamitz (Czech: Karel Stamic) was born at Mannheim in Germany and received his first lessons in violin and composition from his father. After his father’s death, Stamitz was taught by Christian Cannabich (1731–1798), his father’s successor as concert-master and leader of the Mannheim orchestra. Ignaz Holzbauer (1711–1798), the court-director of music, and the court-composer Franz Xaver Richter (1709–1789) also had a hand in his education.

     By the time he was 17, Stamitz was employed as a violinist in the court orchestra and became a violin, viola and viola d’amore virtuoso. He was the most prominent representative of the second generation of the Mannheim School.  In 1770 he resigned from his post and began travelling. As a travelling virtuoso on the violin, the viola and viola d’amore, Stamitz often accepted short-term engagements but never managed to gain a permanent position with one of the European princes or in one of the orchestras of his time.  In 1770 Stamitz went to Paris where he went into service with Duke Louis of Noailles, who made him his court composer. He also appeared in the Concerts Spirituels, sometimes together with his brother Anton, who probably had come to Paris with him. During his Paris years (1770–1778) Stamitz began to cooperate with the Bohemian born clarinet virtuoso Joseph Beer (1744–1811) which proved fruitful for both Stamitz and Beer. At least one of Stamitz’s clarinet concertos (concerto No. 6 in E-flat major) seems to have been jointly composed by Stamitz and Beer, as both names appear on the title page of the Viennese manuscript.

     With Paris as his base he made frequent concert tours to a number of German cities. On  April 12,1773, he appeared in Frankfurt am Main, a year later in Augsburg, and in 1775 he ventured as far as St. Petersburg in Russia.  Stamitz’s cello concertos were written for the cello-playing Prussian King Frederick William II, for whom both Mozart and Beethoven also wrote music.  Stylistically Stamitz’s music is not too far from the works of the young Mozart or Haydn’s middle period.   Hus works are characterized by regular periods and appealing melodies, with the voices quite often led in thirds, sixths and tenths. The writing for the solo instruments is idiomatic and virtuosic but not excessively so.  The opening movements of his concertos and orchestral works are regularly constructed in the sonata form with an extensive double exposition. The middle movements are expressive and lyrical, sometimes called “Romance” and usually constructed according to the Liedform. The final movement is often (in the concertos almost always) a French-style rondo. Just as his teacher Franz Xaver Richter had done, Stamitz preferred minor keys.

     In 1777 Stamitz dwelt for a time in Strasbourg where Franz Xaver Richter was music director. During the years 1777 and 1778 he was successful in London, one of many Austro-German musicians, such as Carl Friedrich Abel, Johann Christian Bach, and in his last years Joseph Haydn, to be drawn to that city. His stay in London was possibly facilitated through his contact with Thomas Erskine, Earl of Kelly (1753–1781), who during a tour of the continent had received lessons from Carl’s father.  Between 1782 and 1783 Stamitz was in the Netherlands where he gave concerts in The Hague and in Amsterdam. In 1785 Stamitz returned to Germany to appear in concerts in a number of cities and towns, e.g. Hamburg, Lübeck, Braunschweig, Magdeburg, and Leipzig. In the April 1786 he made his way to Berlin where on  May 19, 1786, he participated in the performance of Handel’s Messiah under Johann Adam Hiller’s baton.

     Stamitz then emerges in Dresden, Prague, Halle and finally in Nuremberg, where he staged a Great Allegorical Musical Festivity in Two Acts celebrating the balloon ascent of the French aviation pioneer Jean Pierre Blanchard on November 3, 1787. During the winter of 1789–90 he directed the amateur concerts in Kassel but failed to gain an employment with the Schwerin court which forced him, by now married and father of four children who all died in infancy, to resume travelling.  On  November 12, 1792, he gave a concert in the Weimar court theatre, then under the direction of Johann Wolfgang Goethe. In 1793 he undertook a last journey along the Rhein to his native Mannheim before he finally gave up travelling. Sometime in the winter of 1794–95 he moved his family to the university town of Jena.

     During the years Stamitz spent in Jena, the town had neither a town band nor an orchestra to speak of. According to some sources he was in some way connected to the university but this seems a matter of dispute.  Stamitz gradually descended into poverty.              After his death in 1801, his estate was put up for auction to cover his debts but nothing was sold, and all of it consequently lost.  Carl Stamitz wrote more than 50 symphonies; at least 38 symphonies concertantes; and more than 60 concertos for Violin, viola, viola d’amore, cello, clarinet, Basset horn, flute, bassoon, and other instruments.  He was the first composer to specify a left-hand pizzicato in his Viola Concerto in D major.  He also wrote a good deal of chamber music for various combinations. Some of his clarinet and viola concertos, for which he is particularly remembered, are considered to be among the finest available.  He also wrote two operas, Der verliebte Vormund (1787), and Dardanus (1780), both of which are considered lost.

     Some of Carl Stamitz’s works that are included in my collection are as follows:

                Concerto for Clarinet No. 3 in BbM. 

                Concerto for Two Flutes and Orchestra in GM. 

                Sinfonia a 4 in CM.

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