The harpsichord and the violin are a happy couple. What delighted princes and royal dignitaries in the Baroque era, gives me every year many happy autumn days. The Baroque repertoire for violin and basso continuo* is vast, every now I present rarities, little known composers like Heinrich I. F. Biber or Jacob Kirkman, and I am sure there are many more to be discovered by me as a listener or by musicologists and musicians as professionals.
A warm and clear sound
Today we will return to a composer we have already met in a post about Baroque piano trios: Johann Stamitz. He wrote a set of six sonatas for violin and basso continuo, published after his death as Op. 6, and Stephan Schadt (violin) and Michael Behringer (harpsichord) have recorded them with label MDG. I have owned that recording now for some time, but autumn is the season that I would like to embrace with Stamitz’ music. It must be the warmth of the sound mirrored by the still pleasant temperature outside, the clarity of Stamitz phrasing mirrored by the rays of light that make the golden leaves shine.
Stamitz lived between 1717 and 1757 and due to his long-time appointment to the court of Mannheim in Germany he and his fellow musicians and the first generation of his students became known as the Mannheim School. Musically they bridge the gap between the late Baroque and Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. “They helped lay the groundwork for a new style of composition”, says Dr. Daniel Thomason in an essay for the International Viola d’Amore Society, referring to “the embryonic beginnings of what was later to become Sonata-Allegro form”, emphasis among other things on the evolution of thematic material through a movement or a piece.
No original manuscripts
Stamitz was a prolific composer; he wrote at least ten symphonies, ten orchestral trios, dozens of concertos and chamber music for two, three or four players. Due to the complete lack of original manuscripts and the absence of dated sources, firm conclusions about Stamitz’s evolution as a composer are almost impossible.
If the six sonatas there are three that I would like to highlight: No. 3 in E flat major, No. 4 in G major and No. 5 in D major. There is no specific reason for my personal preference, I just like these sonatas better than the other. May they give you as much joy as they gave me!
© Charles Thibo