What I Like About...
Sunday, October 10, 2004
  Sinfonia a 8 in E-flat Major (La melodia germanica, No. 3)
Johann Wenzel Stamitz (1717-1757)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 7 Tracks 29-33

Gone are the days when a composer could win the mantle of innovator by writing a crescendo . Though there is something about the Mannheim affection for patterns that reminds me of John Adams. Like Adams, Johann Stamitz seems to have prioritized performance over musical interest. His "army of generals" must have been an impressive sight, their bows moving at the same time and all. And like Adams, his scores may not be much to read but the sound is often a fun ride.

The late eighteenth century is recent enough for us living listeners to distinguish compositional voices. We find in this music the familiar and the unique. For instance, we hear the "I like soup" icebreaker now adorned with hiccups. And Stamitz, who wrote instrumental music with scarce a trace of polyphony, becomes an opposite of the Ockeghem Mr. Ross described in 1998. This Mannheim champion asks very little of our ears. The listener has no challenge in understanding. There is no renewed mystery upon repeated hearings. We like him because we understand him.

What I like about this steamroller is the support the oboes get from the horns. As much as I do not believe music improves as generations pass, it is exciting to go through this anthology happily following the development of the symphony and other delights of the Western world. 
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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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