While Mannheim today is a relatively typical industrial city in southwest Germany, as the former capital of the Electorate of the Palatinate, it was regarded in the 18th century as a new “Athens on the Rhine.” This was due in part to the efforts of its ruler, Karl Theodor, who, unlike his many contemporary rulers who invested their treasury in war-making and territorial expansion, invested heavily in arts, culture, and sciences. Taking his cues from the Enlightenment philosophies of his time, Karl Theodor sought to create a harmonious society built on knowledge, reason, and artistic expression. He opened his library and theatres to his subjects, poured money into the construction of astronomical observatories, and attracted all sorts of painters, sculptors, classicists, garden planners, architects, writers, philosophers, scientists, and musicians from all around Europe to his court, where they all intermingled and created a new intellectual boon. It was under this inspiring climate that the Mannheim court orchestra became the most prominent in Europe. Not only were its performances of the music of the finest composers of the day considered first rate, but also were its own school of composers, virtuoso players, and innovative style. This school had a profound influence on later composers like Mozart and Haydn, and Mozart notably sought employment in Mannheim, albeit unsuccessfully. Yet, despite its grand and enticing qualities, it remains largely forgotten today, alongside the cultural legacy of Karl Theodor’s court. We were inspired to revive this music not only for its great qualities, but also to bring light to the Enlightened-climate that it was born from: a cosmopolitan group of creative intellectuals, all working together and inspiring each other with diverse perspectives, bringing new innovations to the arts and sciences that sought to create an Enlightened, harmonious, society.
This served as the inspiration behind Das Neue Mannheimer Orchester (DNMO), which was established in late 2016 in The Hague by Canadian harpsichordist and fortepianist Anders Muskens with the aim of recapturing the spirit of music from the period of the original Mannheim Court Orchestra, including late Baroque, galant, Classical, and early Romantic – especially from composers of the Mannheim School. As an early music ensemble, DNMO plays on period instruments using historically informed techniques. It is made up of young professional early music specialists, and is a highly international group featuring talents from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Poland, Spain, Japan, Korea, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Australia, Canada, and the United States.
In November 2018, the ensemble was awarded the „Hofkapelle Elbe-Elster“ für das Jahr 2019 prize at the „Gebrüder Graun Prize“ 2018 in Bad Liebenwerda, Germany. DNMO has played at the Utrecht Early Music Festival Fringe in 2018-19; and the Wahrenbrücker Graun-Festtage 2019. DNMO has produced several operas, including a revival production of Johann Christian Bach's opera seria, Carattaco, in February 2020; and a revival of Gian Francesco de Majo’s opera serenata, La gara delle grazie at the Grachtenfestival in Amsterdam in August 2020. DNMO was invited to play on Dutch national television’s Podium Witteman (NL) in April 2021 in a segment on the music of the Mannheim Court, and in the summer of 2021 produced a series of concerts supported by the Fonds Podiumkunsten Balkonscènes Fond (NL). In April 2022, DNMO will perform a large orchestra concert for the first time at the Schwetzinger SWR Festspiele in one of Karl Theodor’s palaces.
With the support of SENA, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the Adriana Jacoba Fonds, DNMO has produced a number of commercial CD recordings including the “Army of Generals” anthology series, released by Etcetera Records.
DNMO is committed to challenge established boundaries and conventions of the Classical Music world with the goal of rekindling the passion of eighteenth-century performances. With the collaboration of various musicologists, DNMO has a number of research initiatives to better understand and reconstruct eighteenth century orchestral performance practices. In addition to presenting music from well-known masters, DNMO seeks to present music of lesser-known composers which is equally worthy of performance.
DNMO is committed to challenge established boundaries and conventions of the Classical Music world with the goal of rekindling the passion of eighteenth century performances. With the collaboration of various musicologists, DNMO has a number of research initiatives to better understand and reconstruct eighteenth century orchestral performance practices. In addition to presenting music from well-known masters, the DNMO seeks to present music of lesser known composers which is equally worthy of performance.