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A rare moment for the viola to shine: Stamitz’s Viola Concerto

A rare moment for the viola to shine: Stamitz’s Viola Concerto featured image

May 8, 2019

Carl Philipp Stamitz was a classical-era virtuoso violinist, violist, and viola d’amore player. He toured regularly, and was a freelance musician who never managed a permanent position as either teacher or as a court composer, which were, in those days, a typical way to earn a living.

The Viola Concerto in D Major, Op. 1 is a lovely, sprightly piece, likely designed to show off the abilities of the composer. There are few pieces that highlight the viola as a solo instrument (one of the many reasons why the instrument is the butt of so many classical music jokes). This piece is often used for students as an exam or competition piece, so I’m guessing it’s not performed too much because it’s associated with being an exercise to pass to the next level, and therefore not programmed to in order to gain popularity via audience reaction. Stamitz’s music sounds very much like early Mozart or mid-career Haydn, and it would be forgivable if you mistook his music for theirs. His melodies are attractive, buoyant, and honestly, worthy of a revival. I’d love to hear his music at a summer festival.

Do you think this Viola Concerto should be performed more often? Have a listen and decide for yourself.

Viola Concerto in D Major, Op. 1 featuring Wolfram Christ with the Cologne Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Helmut Muller-Bruhl.

Carl Stamitz was born May 8, 1745, in Mannheim, Germany, and died November 9 in 1801 in Jena.


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