Mannheim was critically important in the music scene in the early to mid 18th century. The 'Mannheim School' – as it's now known – was a group of progressive German composers connected to the Mannheim Court. Among other things they laid the foundations of the symphony and its orchestration before it was later developed by Haydn and Mozart. So I felt it was important to break my journey between Bonn and Munich to visit the Mannheim Palace. I arrived at Mannheim Hauptbahnhof at 11:30, left my heavy suitcase in the left-luggage lockers for €4, and set off for the palace, only 10 minutes walk away.

Mannheim highlight

The Palace

Much of the huge Mannheim palace is now occupied by the university and some government offices. But the central part has been beautifully restored following serious damage in World War II. A quite good, if somewhat pretentious, audio guide, although most of it is concerned with detailed early German history which I found difficult to cope with without a diagram or some prior knowledge. Very little in the audio tour about Mannheim’s music, but the complex history did put the music into context: everything about the palace is there to create a good impression, and having the best orchestra in the neighbourhood is just a part of that...

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The Mannheim composers were headed by Johann Stamitz (1717-1757), and later included Holzbauer, Richter, Cannabich, and Stamitz's sons Karl and Anton. Among other things they in effect 'invented' the orchestral crescendo – until then orchestras had mostly played either loud or soft, and only singers had had long crescendos – and introduced precise dynamics and written out parts in place of the traditional improvised continuo.


After following the audio tour of the major public rooms (no photography allowed), and taking some photos in the massive courtyard – including this five-shot 180 degree panorama using the wide end of the Nikon 12-24mm lens – I walked back to the station, recovered my case, and settled into my reserved seat on the 14:31 train to Munich.

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