Karl Philip Stamitz

Karl Philip Stamitz may be the most famous composer of those known as the second-generation “Mannheim School”. His earliest source of music education was his father, Johann Stamitz, who was the royal Director of Instrumental Music, and led the Mannheim Orchestra, largely considered the best in the world at the time. Though his father died in 1757, Stamitz went on to join the Mannheim Orchestra as a violinist from 1762-1770, using this period of time to perfect his musical technique, both in performance and in composition.

In 1770, Stamitz traveled to Paris, and, in 1771, Duke Louis of Noailles appointed him the court composer. Together with his brother, Stamitz performed repeatedly at the Concert Spirituel, and in 1772 actually lived at Versailles. Over the next two years he would embark on a performance tour, visiting Vienna, Frankfurt, Augsburg, and Strassburg, where his six Opus 14 string quartets were published.

The following years of Stamitz’s life are a cloud of historical mystery, what is certain, however, is that after leaving Paris, Stamitz would never again regain his position of fame and popularity. It is believed that he lived in London for a time and then The Hague in the Netherlands. He continued travelling, performing as a violist and eventually settled in Germany in the late 1780s, marrying Maria Josepha Pilz. The couple had four children between 1790 and 1795, none of which outlived their childhoods. This period as a husband and father prevented him from travelling as much and his final years were marked by distributions of his compositions and requests for stable employment, including petitions sent to Wales and Russia. Unfortunately, Stamitz’s performing abilities, compositional genius, fame, nor his somewhat interesting excursions into alchemy were able to save him financially, and so upon his death, his debt was so great that everything he owned was auctioned and a large portion of his works were lost.

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