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Biography of

Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf

2 nov 1739 (Vienna) - 24 oct 1799 (Neuhof)
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Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf
The plaque for Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf in Jeseník

August Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (November 2, 1739 – October 24, 1799) was an Austrian composer and violinist.




Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf was born in Laimgrube, Vienna, Austria, as August Carl Ditters. His father was a military tailor, serving in the Austrian Imperial Army of Charles VI, in a number of German-speaking regiments. Having retired successfully from his martial obligations, 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 a good general education at a Jesuit school and private tuition in music, violin, French and religion. After having left his first teacher, August Carl studied violin with J. Ziegler, who, a few years later, and through his influence, made August Carl be appointed as a member of the orchestra at the Benedictine church on the Freyung. By 1750, August Carl had obtained a post with the Viennese Schottenkircheorchestra.

Prince Joseph Friedrich von Sachsen-Hildburghausen noticed him and on 1 march 1751 hired him for his court orchestra. At the princely demesne he studied violin with Francesco Trani who, impressed with the ability of his pupil in composition, commended him to Giuseppe Bonno who instructed August Carl in Fuxian Counterpoint and free composition. After a few years the Sachsen-Hildburghausen closed the activity of his orchestra, since he had to leave Wien to assume the regency in Hildburghausen, and August Carl was hired by the Empress for her own Orchestra through Count Durazzo, Theatre Director at the Imperial Court. In 1761 August Carl was made violinist for the Imperial Theatre, and in 1762 Orchestra conductor of the same institution. It was during this period that he became acquainted with Gluck. In 1763 he traveled to Bologna with Gluck, to attend the performance of the opera Trionfo di Clelia: this "Italian Tour" was to leave the greatest impression on his musical opus, impression received both by Gluck and by the Italian Music treatment and practice. In 1764 he traveled to Paris but the documentation about this experience is scarce and uncertain. In 1764 August Carl was back in Wien and in this occasion he made the acquaintance of Joseph Haydn, becoming so one of his closest friends. The contract of August Carl Ditters with Count Durazzo expired in the winter of 1764.


In 1764, Ditters 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 wished to create a cultural center around his court at château Jánský vrch (Johannesberg) in Javorník, (today Czech Republic). In 1771 Ditters accepted the post of Hoffkomponist (court composer), and it was during his tenure at Johannesberg that most of his creative output was produced. Over the next twenty years, he composed symphonies, chamber music, and opere buffe. In 1773 the prince-bishop made Ditters 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 received a noble title von Dittersdorf. His surname became "Ditters von Dittersdorf", but he is usually referred to simply as "Dittersdorf".

Final years

Dittersdorf was the music teacher of Johann Baptist Vanhal. In circa 1785, Haydn, Dittersdorf, Mozart and Vanhal played String Quartets together. Haydn and Dittersdorf played the violins; Mozart, the viola; and Vanhal; the cello. The recorder of this event, the composer and tenor Michael Kelly, stated that they played well but not outstanding together, but the image of four of the great composers of the time all joined in common music making is still one of the classic images of the Classical era.

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

He died in estate Nový Dvůr (Neuhof) at château Červená Lhota, Southern Bohemia. His grave lies in Deštná town. Three days before he died, he finished the writing of his autobiography.

Style and Fame

His early compositions are Gluckian in structure but do not exhibit the courtly style then popular in Germany and Austria.[citation needed] Ditters' early work was a prefiguration of his serious output that was to come in later years - an almost Italianate style focused on melodic development without the overt flourishes characteristic of le style français.

With the exception of his pieces for the double bass and his concerto for harp, his works are seldom performed today.[citation needed] He was well known in his day, though, and is still considered[who?] an important composer of the Classical era. After some early Italian opera buffa, he composed a number of German Singspiele, 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. His symphonies (around 120 of them) are also considered[who?] fine pieces with their folk-like melodies and witty passages; they include twelve based on Ovid's Metamorphoses (six of which have survived to the present day). He also wrote oratorios, cantatas, concertos (including two for the double bass and one for the viola), chamber music, piano pieces and other works. His memoirs, Lebenbeschreibung, were published in Leipzig in 1801.



  • Grosses Concert per 11 strum. (1766)
  • 18 concertos for Violin
  • 3 concertos for 2 Violins
  • 5 concertos for Viola
  • 1 concerto for Cello
  • 2 concertos for Contrabass
  • 1 concerto for Viola and Contrabass
  • 1 concerto for Piano
  • 5 concertos for Oboe
  • 1 concerto for Oboe d'Amore
  • 5 concertos for Harpsichord
  • 2 concertos for Quartet
  • 2 concertinos

Concertos: Manuscripts

  • Concerto for Oboe (in C major) (MS: Dittersdorf 32; now publ. Artaria)
  • Concerto for Flute (in e minor) (MS: Dittersdorf 36; now publ. Artaria)
  • Concerto for 2 Violins (in D major) (MS: mu6402.2532; now publ. Artaria)
  • Concerto for 2 Violins (in C major) (MS: mu6402.2530; now publ. Artaria)

Concertos: selection of best known concertos

  • Concerto for Oboe in G major (Breitkopf & Härtel)
  • Concerto for Oboe in C major (The Danish Royal Library)
  • Concerto for Oboe in D major L.25b
  • Concerto for Oboe in C major L.39
  • Concerto for Oboe in C major L.40a
  • Concerto for Oboe in C major L.24
  • Concerto for Oboe in G major L.42
  • Concerto for Oboe d'Amore in A major L.43b
  • Concerto for Flute in e minor (The Danish Royal Library)
  • Concerto for Cello in D major (The Danish Royal Library)
  • Concerto for Contrabass (Double Bass Concerto) No.1 in E major (The Danish Royal Library)
  • Concerto for Contrabass (Double Bass Concerto) No.2 in D major (The Danish Royal Library)
  • Concerto for Contrabass (Double Bass Concerto) in E flat major (The Danish Royal Library)
  • Concerto for Contrabass, Viola and Orchestra (The Danish Royal Library)
  • Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in F major (The Danish Royal Library)
  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in C major (The Danish Royal Library)
  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in G major (The Danish Royal Library)
  • Concerto for Harp (The Danish Royal Library)
  • Concerto for Cembalo/Harpsichord in B major (The Danish Royal Library)
  • Concertino for 2 Violins, 2 Violas, 2 Oboes, 2 Horns, Basson and Bass


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 Geyer Helen, 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.

  • Sinfonia nel gusto di cinque nazioni (Paris, 1767)
  • 6 Symphonies Op. 1 (Amsterdam, 1768?)
  • 6 Symphonies Op. 4 (Paris, 1769?)
  • The Periodical Ouverture (London, 1769)
  • 3 Symphonies Op. 5 (Paris, 1769?)
  • Symphonies Périodiques (Amsterdam, 1770-72)
  • 3 Symphonies Op. 6 (Paris, 1773?)
  • 4 Symphonies Op. 7 (Paris, 1773?)
  • 3 Symphonies Op. 8 (Paris, 1773?)
  • 6 Symphonies Op. 13 (Paris, 1781)
  • 3 symphonies exprimant 3 métamorphoses d'Ovide: Les 4 âges du monde, La chûte de Phaéton, Actéon changé en cerf (Wien, 1785)

Symphonies: Manuscripts

  • Grande symphonie: Le carnaval ou La redoute (MS)
  • Symphony (in a minor) Il deliro delli compositori, ossia Il gusto d’oggidi’ (MS: Ser.H Fasc.34 Nr.317; now publ. Artaria)
  • Symphony (in A major) Nazionale nel gusto (MS: Ser.H. Fasc.39 Nr.76; now publ. Artaria)
  • Symphony (in D major) Il combattimento delle passioni umane (MS: Ser.H Fasc.34 Nr.315; now publ. Artaria)
  • Symphony (in F major) (Grave F7) (MS: Ser.H Fasc.34 Nr.312; now publ. Artaria)
  • Symphony (in d minor) (Grave d1) (MS: R.M.21.a.13.(3.); now publ. Artaria)
  • Symphony (in g minor) (Grave g1) (MS: S.m.15957; Ser.H Fasc.33 Nr.293; now publ. Artaria)
  • Symphony (in E major) (Grave E1) (MS: IV-A-39 / A- 3498; now publ. Artaria)
  • Symphony (in E flat major) (Grave Eb9) (MS: IV-A-59 / A-3515; now publ. Artaria)
  • Symphony (in F major) (Grave F4) (MS: IV-A-38 / A-3497; now publ. Artaria)
  • Symphony (in D major) (Grave D6) (MS: IV-A-66 / A-3522; now publ. Artaria)

Symphonies: selection of best known symphonies

  • Sinfonia Concertante in D major (Breitkopf & Härtel)
  • Symphony in C major (Breitkopf & Härtel)
  • Symphony in D major (Breitkopf & Härtel)
  • Symphony in F major
  • Symphony in d minor
  • Symphony in g minor
  • Symphony No. 1 after Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”
  • Symphony No. 2 after Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”
  • Symphony No. 3 after Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”
  • Symphony No. 4 after Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”
  • Symphony No. 5 after Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”
  • Symphony No. 6 after Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”
  • Sinfonia Concerto for Viola, Contrabass and Orchestra in E flat major

Chamber Music

  • 15 Divertimenti (Il combattimento dell'umane passioni is in this collection)
  • 5 Cassazioni (2 published: Paris, 1768; the other 3 are MS)
  • 4 Serenate for 2 Horns and Strings
  • 35 Partite for Winds Instruments
  • Petit Ballet en forme d'une contredanse
  • 24 dances for the Redoutensaal
  • 6 String Quintets for 2 vl., vla., vcl., ctbs. (1782)
  • Sonata da camera a 5 stromenti
  • 6 String Quartets (1789)
  • Quartet in E flat major
  • 6 Sonatas for 2 vl. and vla. Op. 2 (Amsterdam, s. d.)
  • 6 Trios for 2 vl. and b. op. 6 (Paris, 1771)
  • Another 12 Trios (id.)
  • 3 Trios for vl., vla. and vcl.
  • Sonata for vl.
  • 2 Duets for 2 vl.
  • Duet for vla. and vcl. or ctbs. in E flat major
  • 14 duets for vl. and bass
  • 136 pieces for Piano
  • Divertimento for two Violins and Violoncello in E flat major
  • Notturno (in D) for 4 flutes


  • Amore in Musica (1767, Grosswardein)
  • 25 000 Gulden oder im Dunkeln ist gut munkeln (1785, Vienna)
  • Doktor und Apotheker (1786, Vienna)
  • Betrug durch Aberglauben (1786, Vienna)
  • Die Liebe im Narrenhaus (1787, Vienna)
  • Hieronymus Knicker (1789, Vienna)
  • Das rote Käppchen (1788, Vienna)
  • Das Gespenst mit der Trommel (1794, Oels)
  • Don Quixote der Zweyte (1795, Oels)
  • Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (1796, Oels)


  • Isacco figura del Redentore (Grosswardein, 1766)
  • Davide penitente (Johannisberg, 1770)
  • La Liberatrice del Popolo Giudaico nella Persia, o sia l’Esther (Wien, 1773)
  • Giobbe (Wien, 1786)


  • Auf das... Geburtsfest seiner Majestät des Königs (1781)
  • Auf Lichtmess
  • 11 other cantatas

Sacred Music

  • Missa in C major
  • Missa a 4 v.
  • Missa gratiosa in C major
  • Missa in D major
  • 12 other masses
  • "Requiem" Mass in c minor
  • 11 offertories
  • Antiphony with choir, orchestra and organ
  • 8 litanies
  • 12 ariae ex canticis Salomonis (Augusta, 1795)
  • 170 other sacred music works: arias, graduals, motettes et cetera.
  • the aria Das Mädchen von Köln (from Ossian; Leipzig, 1795)
  • 3 other arias for Soprano and orchestra

Other Works

  • Pastoral-Motette


  • Sinfonias on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Nos 1-3, Failoni Orchestra, Hanspeter Gmür, 1995, Naxos Nx 8553368
  • Sinfonias on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Nos 4-6, Failoni Orchestra, Hanspeter Gmür, 1995, Naxos Nx 8553369
  • Sinfonias. Grave d1, Grave F7, Grave g1, Failoni Orchestra, Uwe Grodd, 1996, Naxos Nx 8553974
  • Sinfonias. Grave a2, Grave D16, Grave A10, Failoni Orchestra, Uwe Grodd, 1996, Naxos Nx 8553975
  • String Quartets 1 & 3-5, Franz Schubert Quartet, 1989, cpo 999 038-2
  • String Quartets 2 & 6, String Quintets in C & G, Franz Schubert Quartet, 1992, cpo 999 122-2
  • Geistliche Musik (Requiem, Offertorium zu Ehren des Heiligen Johann von Nepomuk, Lauretanische Litanei), Regensburger Domspatzen, Consortium musicum München, Georg Ratzinger, 1996 + 1987, Freiburger Musikforum / ars musici AM 1158-2
  • Sinfonien in D, Es, A, Lisbon Metropolitan Orchestra, Alvaro Cassuto, 2006, Naxos
  • Double Bass Concertos, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Paul Goodwin, Chi-Chi Nwanoku, 2000, hyperion
  • Sinfonies Exprimant (Les Metamoprphoses D’Ovide) Nos 1-6, Prague Chamber Orchestra, Bohumil Gregor, 1988 Supraphon

See also


  • Ludger Udolph (Hrsg.): Karl von Dittersdorfs Lebensbeschreibungen. Seinem Sohne in die Feder diktiert, München 1999, ISBN 3-7844-2730-8.
  • Norbert Miller (Hrsg.): Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf Lebensbeschreibung. Seinem Sohne in die Feder diktiert, München 1967, Kösel-Verlag.
  • Hubert Unverricht (Hrsg.) Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf 1739–1799. Mozarts Rivale in der Oper, Würzburg 1989, ISBN 3-87057-152-7.
  • Klaus Stübler, Christine Wolf: Harenberg Komponistenlexikon. MAYERS Lexikonverlag, Mannheim 2004, ISBN 3-411-76117-2, S. 258,259.

External links


Sonate A-Dur By Karl Ditters Von Dittersdorf (1739-1799). Published by Doblinger Music Publishers (DB.DM-01196)

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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