Mannheim

The third major seat of Catholic culture was Mannheim, which boasted the universally acknowledged best orchestra in Europe, “an army of generals”.   The patron there was Karl Theodor, Elector of the Palatine Territory.  He lavished money on all the arts, as it apparently made women swoon.  He is alleged by some to have fathered up to one thousand illegitimate children (take that, August!), but I can’t imagine who was keeping count—and why—and how.  Only a legitimate heir could succeed him and his only such died at one day old.  Karl Theodor spent a lot of diplomatic time trying to trade the Palatine for the Austrian Netherlands, where his half-dozen or so high-born illegitimate sons could apparently succeed him, but without results.  He even moved to Munich in 1778 when he inherited Bavaria and tried to trade that for the Netherlands as well.  He failed again, but took most of the orchestra with him and abandoned all he had built in Mannheim (to which one can only mutter, “The bastard!”).

Johann Stamitz (1717-1757) was the founder and first conductor of the Mannheim orchestra,   Composers Franz Xaver Richter (1709-1789) and Ignaz Holzbauer (1711-1783) apparently wrote many masses, but only one is available as a recording, a mass in C major by Holzbauer (year unknown).  I cannot find it on CD, but it is presented in its entirety on YouTube.  It is lyrical and operatic, with soloists in various combinations and Type I and II choruses—rather like Hasse, but not so pretty.

Christian Cannabich took over the direction of the orchestra after Stamitz’s death in 1757 and became a good friend of Mozart, whom he first met in Paris in 1764.  Mozart stayed at his house in Mannheim in 1777 and gave keyboard lessons to his daughter Rosa.  Cannabich did not write any masses, but Stamitz had left one from 1754; it’s a dandy and it is recorded.  There is no evidence Mozart knew this mass, but I suppose Cannabich might have had it in his back pocket in Paris, where Mozart (at age eight) might have read the score, taken note of its cheerful, accessible nature, and memorized it.  The mass features solos, duets, a quartet, and Type I & II choruses.  There are a couple of old-style, churchy sections, but mostly it is tuneful and folklike.  “Laudamus te” for soloists, notably soprano, is particularly catchy and danceable, while still serving the words well.

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