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Mannheim school

Mannheim school

Mannheim school refers to both the orchestral techniques pioneered by the court orchestra of Mannheim in the latter half of the 18th century as well as the group of composers who wrote such music for the orchestra of Mannheim and others.

The court of the Elector Carl Philipp moved from Heidelberg to Mannheim in 1720, already employing an orchestra larger than that of any of the surrounding states. The orchestra grew even further in the following decades and came to include some of the best virtuosi of the time. Under the guidance of Kapellmeister Carlo Grua, the court hired such talents as Johann Stamitz, who is generally considered to be the founder of the Mannheim school, in 1741/42, and he became its director in 1750.

The most notable of the revolutionary techniques of the Mannheim orchestra were its more independent treatment of the wind instruments and its famous whole-orchestra crescendo, a stark contrast to the dynamics of baroque music, which allowed only for instantaneous changes from forte to piano and back.

Members of the Mannheim school included Johann Stamitz, Franz Xaver Richter, Carl Stamitz, Franz Ignaz Beck, and Christian Cannabich, and it had a very direct influence on many major symphonists of the time, including Joseph Haydn and Leopold Hofmann. The orchestra commissioned Joseph Haydn to compose six symphonies (the "Paris Symphonies" Nr. 82-87), which Chevalier de Saint-Georges conducted for their world premiere. Cannabich, one of the directors of the orchestra after the death of J. Stamitz, was also a good friend of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from the latter's visit to Mannheim in 1777 onwards.

Mannheim rocket

The Mannheim rocket is a series of rapidly ascending broken chords from the lowest range of the bass line to the very top of the soprano line. Composers of the Mannheim school introduced a number of novel ideas into the orchestral music of their day: sudden crescendos – the Mannheim Crescendo or (a crescendo developed via the whole orchestra) – and decrescendos; crescendos with piano releases; the Mannheim Roller (an extended crescendo passage typically having a rising melodic line over an ostinato bass line); the Mannheim Sigh (a mannered treatment of the Baroque practice of putting more weight on the first of two notes in descending pairs of slurred notes); the Mannheim Birds (imitation of birds chirping in solo passages) and the Grand Pause where the playing stops for a moment, resulting in total silence, only to restart vigorously.

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