An important group of German composers of the mid-18th
century, centered at Mannheim and associated with the orchestra
of Karl Theodor (1724-99), Elector of Pfalzbayern. Johann
Stamitz, who joined the orchestra in 1745 and soon became its conductor,
inaugurated an entirely novel style of orchestral music and performance,
thereby laying the foundation for the symphonic style
of the Viennese classical school during the same period when the tradition
of Baroque music culminated in
the late works of Bach and Handel.
Conspicuous features of the new style were:
- melodic prominence of the violins in an essentially
The importance of the Mannheim composers lies
in their historical position as forerunners of the
classical period rather than in the intrinsic value of their works.
The symphonies of Johann Stamitz,
typical products of a single-minded innovator, are artistically even less
satisfactory than those of the later Mannheimers (Holzbauer, Richter, Filtz,
Beck, Cannabich, Karl Stamitz, Anton Stamitz), who turned from Stamitz'
fragmentary and incoherent mosaic style (somewhat like that of Domenico
Scarlatti) to a more continuous and melodic manner, which, however,
is not free from the sentimentalities of the gallant
style and which, needless to say, is inferior to that of their noted
contemporaries, Haydn and Mozart.
Mozart's father referred to the extravagant novelties of this school as
the "mannered Mannheim taste."
- abandonment of imitation
and fugal style
- presto character of the quick movements
- use of dynamic devices such as extended crescendos
and unexpected fortes and fortissimos
- complete rests
- a novel type of subject and figure that quickly
rise over a wide range, usually in broken chords
the so-called "raketen" (rockets, Roman candles);
- orchestral effects such as tremolo
and broken chords in quick notes
- replacement of thoroughbass
accompaniment by written out orchestral parts
The importance of the Mannheim school as the founders
of the modern symphony and chamber music was strongly emphasized
by their discoverer, H. Riemann. No doubt the novel ideas of style
and form were "in the air" about 1740, and a great many musicians, among
whom Sammartini deserves particular
mention, worked in the same direction, laying the foundation for Haydn,
and Beethoven. The
early Viennese composers were definitely much more advanced than the Mannheimers
in the establishment of the formal principles of the sonata.
On the other hand, the importance and true meaning of the new principles
of symphonic style were more clearly understood in Mannheim than elsewhere,
probably owing to the favorable conditions there.