Dutch Crown Jewels

This article originally appeared as the liner notes to the New Dutch Academy's world premiere CD recording of symphonies by Zappa, Graaf, Schwindl and C. Stamitz (2009) "Crowning Glory - The Musical Heritage of the Netherlands".  

Symphonies from the 18th Century Court of Orange in The Hague

In the second half of the 18th century, the Dutch court city of The Hague became a glittering, cosmopolitan centre of international cultural exchange and inspired musical endeavour. With its dynamic diplomatic, artistic and cultural scenes, under the rule of the Prince of Orange, Stadhouder Willem V, the court city entered a new age of artistic vision, energy and achievement.  

During the period, Willem V and his mother, the intensely musical and cultural mother Princess Anna van Hannover (herself a student of G.F. Handel), stimulated a new and vital creative scene in The Hague actively and structurally supporting music, scholarship and science as well as establishing trail blazing cultural phenomena such as public art galleries. In doing so, they laid the foundations for many aspects of the Netherlands’ cultural and educational infrastructures which continue to serve and support the impressively thriving, open and internationally orientated cultural life of the country to this day.

The wife of Willem V, Wilhelmina, was the niece of the famously (musically) obsessed Prussian monarch, Fredrick the Great. This alliance considerably enhanced the Dutch House of Orange’s political weight in the European arena, which in turn provided the impetus for the creation of a representative musical establishment at the Dutch court. It was, however, Willem and Wilhelmina’s personal love for music which ensured such a thriving music scene at the court.

The Hague Court in the 18th century

Resident musicians at the court in The Hague included major European musical figures such as the virtuoso cellist and composer Francesco Zappa (fl. 1763 – 1788) and the legendary violin/viola soloist Carl Stamitz (1746 – 1801) – son of the “father of the symphony” himself, the Mannheimer Johann Stamitz (1717 – 1757). Visiting performers to the court included pianists Dussek and Beethoven, Mannheim star flautist Wendling, and a veritable call list of other 18th century personalities such as C.F. Abel, F.X. Richter and W.A. Mozart.

The musical internationalism of the court in The Hague resulted in it being highly connected with the exciting musical developments also happening in other European musical centres such as London, Paris, Mannheim, Madrid, Milan, Stockholm, Leipzig, Potsdam, Berlin and Vienna. The glittering musical activities at court were also complemented by a vibrant, international music scene in the city of The Hague itself. In the period, the city had regular concerts, maintained a French Opera House, a German Opera House and, in the summer, opened its Pleasure Gardens for music and other entertainments.

In the 18th century, the city of The Hague was also a major European centre of music publishing, with the most important Dutch music publishing firm of the Hummel Brothers starting out in the city in the 1750’s and quickly expanding to include offices in Amsterdam and Berlin. Through their editions, the Hummel Brothers introduced to Europe for the first time the works of such seminal composers as C.F. Abel, J.C. Bach, J. Stamitz, Haydn, Pleyel and Reichardt, amongst many, many others. They successfully brought to a musically insatiable Europe works from the newest composers of the day in beautifully presented editions of all ranges of musical mediums from solo piano music to flute quartets, vocal music, and string quartets through to orchestral music such as overtures, concertos and symphonies.

Willem V painted by de Spinny in 1771      Princess Wilhelmina painted by de Spinny in 1771

This landmark, world premiere recording presents newly discovered symphonic music by 18th century The Hague court cellist Francesco Zappa (fl. 1763 – 1788) who lived and worked in The Hague for more than twenty years as a solo cellist, pedagogue and composer. Complementing the symphonies of Zappa, this disc offers a view of orchestral music by other composers active at the court of Willem V in The Hague including the court’s Kapellmeister Christian Ernst Graaf (1723 – 1804), the court’s concertmaster Friedrich Schwindl (1737 – 1786), and violin/viola virtuoso Carl Stamitz. The works by these composers also appear here for the first time on disc.

Alongside Madrid-based Boccherini and the Mannheim cellists Filtz (Filz/Fils) and Danzi, The Hague’s Francesco Zappa was one of mid-18th century Europe’s leading cello virtuosi and his symphonic music and chamber pieces were published, distributed and performed all over Europe in the period. Zappa’s works for the cello are a testament to the cutting edge technical, musical and stylistic prowess present in the 18th century Dutch music scene. Other Dutch written/published works for cello appearing in the Netherlands in the mid-18th century, for example by Geminiani or the Dutchman Klein, further attest to the presence of a flourishing, innovative and highly virtuosic Dutch string school.

Other resident talent at The Hague court included J.C. Bach’s friend Francesco Pasquale Ricci (1732 – 1817) who held a busy double post as organist to the Cathedral in Como (Italy) as well as being a composer at the court in The Hague. Also notable was singer/composer Giovanni Batista Zingoni (1720 – 1811), who worked as a opera soloist with J.C. Bach in London before taking up his residency as composer/performer in The Hague. Other important figures at The Hague court included the instrumentalist, composer and publisher Johann Conrad Spangenberg (c 1720 – c 1800), the composer Colizzi, and the violinist Malherbe.

The music featured on this disc comes from the period between roughly 1760 and 1785. The programme aims to give an impression of the type of repertoire performed at the court in this period and to give insight into the effervescent and cosmopolitan flavour of the court’s musical taste and style. In addition to works composed by the resident musicians at the court, other repertoire performed at the court would have included music by the likes of “The Dutch Haydn” Joseph Schmitt as well as by Abel and J.C. Bach, Mannheimers J. Stamitz, Toeschi, Cannabich, Eichner and Filtz – all of whose music was easily available in print in the Netherlands in editions by, for example, the Hummel Brothers.

Music and the Arts were clearly the passion of the mid-18th century Prince of Orange, Willem V. Undeniably, the crowning glory of his reign was his cultural achievements - in particular his musical establishment which saw some of the leading international musical lights of mid-18th century Europe busy in The Hague composing and performing highly dynamic, inventive and spirited symphonic music.

This SACD, featuring the world premiere recordings of symphonies by Graaf, C. Stamitz, Schwindl and Francesco Zappa, is the first ever disc devoted entirely to presenting and profiling the orchestral music of the Dutch court of the mid to late 18th century. Stylistically, the music of these composers balances visionary 18th century enlightened elegance with the raw energy of being the “rock ‘n roll” of its day. Through this recording, we are proud to put these musical works back on the international map and to showcase the richness of both the Dutch court music tradition and the Dutch 18th century symphonic school. In particular, we are thrilled to present here the recently rediscovered, symphonic movements for solo Cello and Orchestra by Francesco Zappa – also referred to as the Adagio for Cello and Orchestra in E flat (track 5) and the Largo for Cello and Orchestra in D (track 14).

This music first came to light through the exploratory efforts of the NDA Research Lab and we are delighted to enrich the modern concert repertoire with the invigorating works, presented here on disc for the first time. We very much hope that you enjoy listening to our performances of these 18th Century Dutch Musical Crown Jewels!

Simon Murphy, The Hague, July 2009.


Listen to selected tracks from the CD with Symphonies by Zappa, Graaf, Schwindl and C. Stamitz

Watch the NDA perform symphonies by Graaf, Zappa and Stamitz live on videostreaming

Read what the media have to say about the CD "Crowning Glory - Zappa Symphonies"

Read about Simon Murphy and the NDA and the House of Orange now

Listen to the NDA's recordings of symphonic and chamber works by Joseph Schmitt "The Dutch Haydn"

Listen to the NDA's recordings of early symphonic works by Mannheimers J. Stamitz and F.X. Richter  

Watch an interview with Simon Murphy and Reinildis van Ditzhuyzen (in Dutch)