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Penguin Guide, January 2009

These symphonies are every bit as enjoyable as those associated with Ovid and clearly have a good deal in common with Haydn and Mozart, with surprise reminders of both those composers. They are well crafted and neatly scored, and these well-recorded performances do them full justice.



Mary Nemet
Music Teacher International, October 2008

During the early 1760s Ditters was regarded as the finest violinist in Vienna, appearing frequently as soloist, mostly in his own concertos, and composing prolifically in other genres. The Sinfonias on this disc, in D, A and E flat major (edited by Allan Badley/Artaria Editions) are only three of the well over one hundred, extraordinary in their range of styles and structures and with many strikingly original features. These three are as colourful, quirky and attractive as any Haydn works in their remarkable wit and inventiveness. There is nothing ‘agreeably conventional’ here and the players vividly capture these Sinfonias’ shee exuberance and charm with considerable bravura. These are warmly committed performances with an excellent natural recorded sound.



Lindsay Kemp
Gramophone, June 2007

Interest in the symphonies of Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf ha over the years centred on the programmatic works, in particular the 12 symphonies inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses. That leaves well over 80 others that have hardly been looked at, so credit goes to Naxos's 18th-century symphony series for teasing out a second disc of "nameless" symphonies. The interpreters here make a good job of things, offering a warm, pleasantly spacious recorded sound and just the kind of tight ensemble and textural clarity needed to bring out the best in a classical symphony.

The music itself is also roomy: Dittersdorf evidently saw no need to hurry things along, and the two symphonies from the 1780s take plenty of time to look at the view: the E flat Symphony is nearly half an hour long. Both are reminiscent of later Haydn, not just for their occasional quirky jokes -- the D major has a false ending not unlike Haydn's Symphony No 90, composed the same year -- but also for the way in which the music sometimes stretches out luxuriously on a smooth and generous chord sequence. There are also hints of Schubert here and there, for instance in the lilting D major Minuet.

The A major Symphony is an earlier and shorter work, more lightweight in the manner of one of Mozart's Salzburg symphonies, but the most striking Mozartism comes in the finale of the E flat, a fugally infused movement which modestly prefigures the equivalent movement of the Jupiter by six years. Dittersdorf not only knew both Haydn and Mozart but also played string quartets with them; who is to say who influenced whom?



Terry Barfoot
MusicWeb International, May 2007

Dittersdorf began his musical career as a violinist in the Prince of Saxe-Hildenburghausen's orchestra in Vienna, for ten years from 1751. He then served under Count Durazzo at the imperial court theatre. As Kapellmeister to the Bishop of Oradea, for four years from 1765, he wrote his first vocal works. He was then employed at both Breslau and Vienna, where his success was such that he was created Knight of the Golden Spur, until in 1773 he was ennobled. He composed a series of operas, mostly singspiels, for Vienna, of which the most famous is Doctor und Apotheker (1786). During the decade that Mozart worked in Vienna (1781-1791), Dittersdorf gained a greater number of operatic performances.

Dittersdorf was widely renowned in his day. He was much admired by Mozart, with whom he played chamber music in Vienna. His instrumental output was particularly prolific, including some 40 concertos and 120 symphonies. These three examples reveal the sure technique that lay behind his artistic success. The performances are accomplished, though they lack that certain sparkle that can raise music to another level. In particular the string sound is rather generalised, and with music that often moves at tempo Allegro that becomes an important issue.

The same formula operates across all three works. Dittersdorf, like his more famous friends and contemporaries Haydn and Mozart, understood the importance of creating a cohesive balance across a multi-movement composition, and this he achieved with consummate artistry, If this achievement seems less secure in the Symphony in E flat major it is simply because it is constructed on a larger scale, and the material does not have quite the personality to sustain it.

With a composer such as Dittersdorf, the onus is on the accompanying documentation to provide the necessary support and encouragement to the project as a whole. The notes by Allan Badley are well planned.

Dittersdorf is undoubtedly a composer who continues to deserve attention, and in that sense this Naxos issue is a commendable enterprise.






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