Performance | Mannheim | Classical Era | Classical
One of the catalysts of eighteenth-century music was the Palatine court at Mannheim under Elector Carl Theodor, who reigned from 1742 until he became Elector of Bavaria in 1778 and the court dissolved. Carl Theodor appointed Johann Stamitz (1717–57) leader of the orchestra in the 1740s and director in 1750. Stamitz assembled an orchestra of unprecedented skill, many of them composers; Charles Burney (1726–1814) called them ‘an army of generals, equally fit to plan a battle as to fight it’. They developed a new style of orchestration – arising directly out of their virtuoso abilities – that played an important role in defining the way an orchestra would function, how different roles in different kinds of passages would be distributed among the instruments.
Similar developments were taking place elsewhere, but the Mannheim School presented theirs more powerfully and had a direct influence on Mozart (who visited the city four times) and possibly, indirectly, on Beethoven. The Mannheim court orchestra also helped create the multiple concerto, or sinfonia concertante, a form much favoured for the opportunities it offered to the skilled assembly of players.
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