CARL DITTERS VON DITTERSDORF (1739 - 1799)
Dittersdorf had composition lessons from Giuseppe Bonno in his native Vienna and served as a violinist in the orchestra of the Prince of Sachsen-Hildburghausen, before joining the imperial theatre. He then served as Kapellmeister to the Bishop of Grosswardein, where, in 1762, he succeeded Michael Haydn. In 1769 he became Kapellmeister to the Prince-Bishop of Breslau, at this period acquiring the patent of nobility that added to the name of Ditters the honorific ‘von Dittersdorf’. Conditions in Johannisberg, the seat of the Prince-Bishop, deteriorated in the political circumstances of the time, and on the death of his employer in 1795 he moved with his family to join the household of a nobleman in Bohemia. Before his death he dictated his fascinating autobiography to his son, a vivid account of musical life in his time.
Dittersdorf wrote a large number of stage works. The earlier Italian works written for Johannisberg were followed by a series of Singspiel primarily for Vienna, and 11 further such works in 1793 and 1794 for Duke Friedrich-August of Brunswick-Oels. These, all in all, mark an important stage in the development of the form.
Vocal and Choral Music
Dittersdorf made his due contribution to oratorio in four such works. He wrote settings of the Mass and other liturgical works, as well as cantatas and arias for church use. His secular vocal works are few.
In orchestral music Dittersdorf may be compared in some respects to his near contemporary Joseph Haydn. His 120 listed symphonies include a set of six giving musical expression to the Metamorphoses of Ovid and another nel gusto di 5 nazioni (‘in the taste of five nations’). His concertos, rather fewer in number, include 18 for violin, five for viola, one for cello and one for double bass, as well as a Double Concerto for viola and double bass.
The chamber music of Dittersdorf, with all the clarity of Classical style, includes string quartets and quintets, divertimenti, and compositions for groups of wind instruments.