Johann Stamitz (1717–1757), the founder of the Mannheim School, in his time was a celebrated violin virtuoso and a highly esteemed orchestral instructor and composer. Under his direction the Mannheim court chapel developed a sophisticated new orchestral idiom and performance discipline, which was considered sensational all over Europe. Owing to the commitment of the elector Carl Theodor von der Pfalz (1724–1799, reigned from 1742), Mannheim became a leading cultural center. Carl Theodor was interested particularly in music performances, turning Mannheim into an international meeting-place for musicians. The court orchestra’s reputation also spread abroad. In a letter from Schwetzingen written on 19 July 1763, Leopold Mozart called the ensemble “without doubt the best in Germany”. Due to Johann Stamitz’ stern schooling the string players and in fact the entire orchestra brought the new homophonous style to perfection. There are numerous references in contemporary sources that attest to the technical virtuosity of the Mannheim violinists. Stamitz was considered the most renowned violinist of his time. In addition to numerous symphonies the concertmaster composed many chamber works for violin, for example the highly virtuosic solo sonatas for violin and the duet divertimenti. As a contemporary put it, his violin concertos “probably have to be considered the nec plus ultra regarding the difficulty of execution on the violin”.2 Today we know of twelve authentic complete violin concertos. The sources of these pieces are transmitted in archives and libraries all over the world in manuscript copies and prints, as partbooks and scores. Most of them are kept in Stockholm (Statens musikbibliotek) and in Ceský Krumlov (Státní oblastní archiv v Treboni, oddelení Ceský Krumlov).
By the preface from Kuo-Hsiang Hung
Translated by Stephanie Wollny