Johann Stamitz, father of the better-known Carl, was not only a progressive composer of the middle 18th century, one of the first true symphonists but also one of the key shapers of the famous orchestra of the Electoral Court at Mannheim. He worked individually with members of the orchestra to build its flashy, spectacular sound, and he was one of the inventors of the so-called "Mannheim rocket" that appeared a generation later in Mozart's works and lives on in the name, and to an extent, the music of the contemporary pop group Mannheim Steamroller. The booklet notes here refer to two key Stamitz works that use the device; those are regrettably not included on the album. However, there are various other smaller "Mannheim rockets" as well as other big effects in these symphonies, which drew the attention of audiences from Vienna to Paris (where they were published). The Mannheim orchestra was large and well-drilled, and this recording by the Musica Viva Chamber Orchestra of Moscow under Alexander Rudin makes it easy to imagine the original performances. Musica Viva is not a historical-instrument group, but they have developed some influences from that sphere, prioritizing punchy articulation over string smoothness and favoring tough, quick performances. Rudin does not shy away from the large dynamic contrasts for which the Mannheim orchestra was famous, and these are generally exciting renderings that catch how revolutionary Stamitz's music was in its day. The Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory is a bit oversized for the music, but recordings of these pieces aren't common, and this strong one is welcome.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Symphony in G major, Op. 3, No. 1, Wolf G2|
|Symphony in G major, Op. 3, No. 3, Wolf G3|
|Symphony in E flat major, Op. 3, No. 4, Wolf Eb3|
|Symphony in A major, Op. 3, No. 5, Wolf A2|
|Symphony in F major, Op. 3, No. 6, Wolf F2|