Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (2 November 1739 – 24 October 1799) was an Austrian composer, violinist, and silvologist. He was a friend of both Haydn and Mozart.[1] His best-known works include the German Singspiele Doktor und Apotheker and a number of programmatic symphonies based on Ovid's Metamorphoses.[2]



Dittersdorf was born in the Laimgrube (now Mariahilf) district of Vienna, Austria, as Johann Carl Ditters. His father was a military tailor in the Austrian Imperial Army of Charles VI, for a number of German-speaking regiments. After retiring honorably from his military obligation, he was provided with royal letters of reference and a sinecure with the Imperial Theatre. In 1745, the six-year-old August Carl was introduced to the violin and his father's moderate financial position allowed him not only a good general education at a Jesuit school, but private tutelage in music, violin, French and religion. After leaving his first teacher, Carl studied violin with J. Ziegler, who by 1750, through his influence, secured his pupil's appointment as a violinist in the orchestra of the Benedictine church on the Freyung.

Prince Joseph of Saxe-Hildburghausen soon noticed young Ditters, and on 1 March 1751 hired him for his court orchestra. Under princely auspices he studied violin with Francesco Trani who, impressed with the ability of his pupil in composition, commended him to Giuseppe Bonno who instructed him in Fuxian counterpoint and free composition. After a few years Prince Joseph disbanded the orchestra, since he had to leave Vienna to assume the regency in Hildburghausen, and the Austrian Empress hired Dittersdorf for her own orchestra through Count Durazzo, Theatre Director at the Imperial Court. In 1761 he was engaged as violinist in the Imperial Theatre orchestra, and in 1762 as its conductor. It was during this period that he became acquainted with Christoph Willibald Gluck, who had just achieved greatness as an opera composer with the Vienna première of his Orfeo ed Euridice. In 1763 he traveled to Bologna with Gluck to see the opera Il trionfo di Clelia: an Italian tour that was to leave the greatest impression on his future work as a composer from both the Austrian Gluck and the contemporary Italian musical scene. In 1764 he traveled to Paris, a trip with only scarce and uncertain documentation. Back in Vienna in 1764, his contract with Count Durazzo expired that winter, but he met the great Joseph Haydn and became one of his closest friends.


In 1764, Dittersdorf assumed the post of Kapellmeister at the court of Ádám Patachich, Hungarian nobleman and Bishop of Nagyvárad (Oradea, Romania). The following year he was introduced to Philipp Gotthard von Schaffgotsch, the Prince-Bishop of Breslau, who was in the process of creating a cultural centre around his court based at Château Jánský vrch (Johannesberg) in Javorník (today part of the Czech Republic). He accepted the post of Hofkomponist (court composer) in 1771, and it was during his tenure at Johannesberg that most of his creative output was produced. Over the next twenty years he wrote symphonies, string quartets and other chamber music, and opere buffe. In 1773 the prince-bishop appointed him Amtshauptmann of nearby Jeseník (Freiwaldau), one of several measures to help entice the cosmopolitan composer to remain at isolated Johannesberg. Since this new post required a noble title, Ditters was sent to Vienna and given the noble title of von Dittersdorf. His full surname thus became "Ditters von Dittersdorf", but he is usually referred to simply as "Dittersdorf".

Final years

Johann Baptist Wanhal was perhaps Dittersdorf's most eminent pupil. About 1785, Haydn, Dittersdorf, Mozart and Wanhal played string quartets together, Dittersdorf taking first violin, Haydn second violin, Mozart viola and Wanhal cello. Eminent Irish tenor Michael Kelly, for whom Mozart created the roles of Don Basilio and Don Curzio in his da Ponte opera Le nozze di Figaro noted of their performance of Stephen Storace's String Quartet that, although they played well, their performance as a whole was not outstanding; but the image of four of the greatest composers of their time joining in common music-making remains an unforgettable vignette of the Classical era (comprising the second half of the eighteenth century).

In 1794, after twenty-four years at Johannesberg, Dittersdorf, after a serious clash with von Schaffgotsch, was expelled from his palace. Sometime the following year, he was invited by Baron Ignaz von Stillfried to live in his spare château known as Červená Lhota, in southern Bohemia. His final decade was occupied with overseeing operatic productions in addition to compiling and editing his own music for publication.

He died at Nový Dvůr (Neuhof, or "New Court") where Château Červená Lhota stood, and was buried in the town of Deštná. He finished his autobiography just three days before his death.

Style and fame

The plaque for Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf in Jeseník

Ditters' early work laid the groundwork for his later compositions. His symphonic and chamber compositions greatly emphasize sensuous Italo-Austrian melody instead of motivic development, which is often entirely lacking in his works. After some early Italian opere buffe, he turned to writing German Singspiele instead, with Der Apotheker und der Doktor (1786, generally known today as Doktor und Apotheker) in particular being a tremendous success in his lifetime, playing in houses all over Europe and recorded almost two centuries later. Among his 120-or-so symphonies are twelve programmatic ones based on Ovid's Metamorphoses, although only six have survived (and have also been recorded). He also wrote oratorios, cantatas and concertos (among which are two for double bass and one for viola), string quartets and other chamber music, piano pieces and other miscellaneous works. His memoirs, Lebenbeschreibung ("Description of [My] Life"), were published in Leipzig in 1801. Some of his compositions, including the double bass concerto, were published in Leipzig by the Friedrich Hofmeister Musikverlag.[3]



Tomb in Deštná

Concertos: manuscripts

Concertos: selection of best known concertos


Dittersdorf left about 120 symphonies with solid attribution. There are about another 90 symphonies which may be Dittersdorf's work—according to the catalogue published by Helen Geyer, Torino 1985. Most of the symphonies are preserved only in manuscripts. Many manuscripts are inscribed di Carlo de Dittersdorf or similar, however they are copies of now lost original scores.

Symphonies: manuscripts

I Minuetto II Anglaise III Concerto IV Ballo Strassburgnese V Polonaise VI Ballo Tedesco VII Kehraus

Symphonies: selection of best-known symphonies

Chamber music




Sacred music

Other works


See also


  1. ^ Rudolf Rösler (Mar 2011). "Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739–1799) – silvologist, composer and conductor in Oradea". Rev. pădur. (in Romanian). 126 (2): 49–50. ISSN 1583-7890. 16734. Archived from the original on 2013-04-16. Retrieved 2012-05-30.(webpage has a translation button)
  2. ^ Kirby, F. E. (1993). "Expression in Dittersdorf's Program Symphonies on Ovid's "Metamorphoses"". Revista de Musicología. 16 (6): 3408–3418 – via JSTOR.
  3. ^ Aufführungstermine Archived 2012-03-31 at the Wayback Machine Friedrich Hofmeister Musikverlag 2011 (in German)
  4. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Oboe Concerto in C major (AE312)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  5. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Flute Concerto in E minor (AE320)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  6. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Double Violin Concerto in D major (AE324)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  7. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Double Violin Concerto in C major (AE325)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  8. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Sinfonia (in A minor) Il deliro delli compositori (AE033)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  9. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Sinfonia in A major, Nazionale nel gusto (AE034)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  10. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Sinfonia in D major, Il combattimento delle passioni umane (AE035)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  11. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Symphony in F major (Grave F7) (AE036)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  12. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Symphony in D minor (Grave d1) (AE037)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  13. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Symphony in G minor (Grave g1) (AE038)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  14. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Symphony in E major (Grave E1) (AE130)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  15. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Symphony in E flat major (Grave Eb9) ( AE131)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  16. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Symphony in F major (Grave F4) (AE132)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  17. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Symphony in D major (Grave D6) (AE133)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  18. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Symphony in D major (Grave D2) (AE134)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  19. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Symphony in A major (Grave A6) (AE136)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  20. ^ "Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von: Symphony in B flat major (Grave Bb5) (AE137)". Artaria Editions. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  21. ^ A Dictionary of Music and Musicians – Page 450 5875944862 G. Grove – 1940 " his first oratorio, ' Isacco figure del Bedentore,' to a Latin adaptation of Metastasio by the Bishop himself. "