Inside the Music | Standard Forms | Late Baroque | Classical
A crucial centre for the emergence of the symphony was the electoral court at Mannheim, where the orchestra achieved an international reputation under its director Johann Wenzel Anton Stamitz (1717–57). Elsewhere in Europe, orchestral music figured significantly in the mixed programmes of the public concerts that formed a feature of musical life in many cities from the early 1700s. There was a greater focus than ever before on instrumental virtuosity, and the age saw the earliest appearance of the extended solo concerto, developed by composers like Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741) into a medium that combined sensitive exploration of the individual sonorities of an instrument with opportunities for technical display.
The use of certain instruments began to decline as others became more attractive to performers, composers and audiences. The popularity of the transverse flute, for example, owed much to the enthusiasm of its most distinguished amateur player, Frederick the Great. The viola da gamba, on the other hand, even if it did not fade into obscurity until the century’s close, was increasingly relegated to an accompanying role. The cello was favoured with eloquent suites and sonatas by J. S. Bach and sonatas by Vivaldi. Among newer sounds, clarinets were heard for the first time around 1710 and horns found their way somewhat later into the opera house. The pianoforte (or fortepiano) made its earliest appearance in Florence in 1698, when Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655–1731) experimented with a percussion keyboard; later, in Germany, grand pianos made by Gottfried Silbermann (1683–1753) attracted the interest of J. S. Bach.
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