The Mannheim court was the most famous and influential musical court of the 18th century. The Elector Palatine resident at the Mannheim court, Carl Theodorwas 18 years old when he came to power in 1743. Cool, young, hip and modern, he created an inspired, trend setting court, filled with the musical super-heroes of the day. The court radiated a breathtaking sense of style and a new fresh elegance; full of positive energy and bursting with enlightened vision. To its contemporaries the Mannheim court was “the musical Athens of the German-speaking world”, “the paradise ofcomposers”.
The court’s composers were on the cutting edge of musical developments. They defined the language and structure of the newest musical form of the time – the symphony. The pioneering ensemble that performed thisnew type of music – the Mannheim court orchestra – was considered to the finest of its day. The 18th century critic Schubart shared the general opinion, “no orchestra has ever surpassed that of Mannheim”. It astonished listeners with the captivating new effects of the new symphonic style, one moment whipping up a frenzy of excitement in its audience, the next moment taking their breath away. The composers at Mannheim were largely responsible for creating that western phenomenon of the medium of the symphony. The Mannheim court orchestra is also the reason that we now refer to this type of ensemble as a “symphony orchestra”.