Mannheim School

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:
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."
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, Mozart, 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.