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Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf

November 2, 1739 - October 24, 1799
born in Vienna, Austria, composed during the Classical period
Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, born simply Karl Ditters, was an Austrian contemporary of Haydn and one of the most popular composers in Europe in his day. As a virtuoso violinist and prolific composer he was a favorite of various court ensembles. His popularity was said to rival that of Haydn, Gluck, and Mozart. During his 60 years of life, he composed over 120 symphonies, 45 operas, a myriad of sacred and chamber works, and completed his autobiography two days before his death. Although his music had circulated all over Europe, he never found a source of stable patronage as Haydn did, and he reportedly died in dire financial straits.

Ditters began his career as a violin virtuoso. Employed in a church orchestra at age 10 or 11, he moved on to the court orchestra of the Prince of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. There he studied composition under Giuseppe Bonno, the court composer and Kapellmeister. He also met Gluck, a fellow violinist, and Haydn. In 1761, at age 21, Ditters was appointed court violinist. Two years later, in 1763, he made his first trip abroad, traveling to Italy with Gluck and performing.

Ditters left the imperial court in 1764 after a dispute. He became Kapellmeister for the court of the Bishop of Grosswardein, in what is now Romania, and produced mostly sacred music for five years. After a dispute with Empress Maria Theresia, the Bishop disbanded his chapel, leaving Ditters unemployed. The following year, Ditters became acquainted with the Prince-Bishop of Breslau, Schaffgotsch, who appointed Ditters court composer in 1770. The court was located in the small hamlet of Johannisberg, and to persuade Ditters to remain in such an out-of-the-way locale, the prince bestowed upon him many honors and titles, including the Order of the Golden Spur and the position of Overseer of Forests and Chief Magistrate. In 1772 Ditters gained noble status and appended "von Dittersdorf" to his surname.

During his years in Johannisberg, Ditters composed numerous symphonies, chamber works, and operas. This period is considered his most creative, and for a time he was in the running to succeed Gassmann as Kapellmeister at the court of Emperor Joseph II. In the middle 1780s, several of his compositions were performed in prestigious circumstances. The imperial palace was the venue for performances of six of his 12 "Ovid" symphonies. As a symphonist Ditters gained a reputation for humor and formal inventiveness, and even today those adventurous musicians who unearth his works are likely to be delighted by those same qualities.

The year 1786 proved to be a defining one for Ditters: his comic opera, Der Apotheker und der Doktor (The Pharmacist and the Doctor) premiered in Vienna with overwhelming success. It soon became the most popular opera in Europe, rapidly spreading to opera houses across the continent. Riding on a wave of popularity, Ditters composed eight more comic operas over the next five years, and these singspiele, works with spoken dialogue and folkish elements, proved extremely influential over the next half century. Among their direct successors was Mozart's Die Zauberflöte.

In the middle 1790s, Ditters' employment with the Prince-Bishop Schaffgotsch came to an end. History is obscure about why, but the separation was caused either by the Prince's death or by court intrigues that led to Ditters' expulsion. Ditters' popularity began fading as well. Facing an impoverished future, Ditters found another patron in Baron Ignaz von Stillfried, who in 1795 installed the composer in his castle in southern Bohemia. His final years were spent editing his works and writing his autobiographical Lebenbeschreibung (Leipzig, 1801). ~ Bruce Lundgren, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf: 6 Symphonies after Ovid's Metamorphoses

Disc 1
Title: Symphony After Ovid's "Metamorphoses" No. 1 In C Major ("Die Vier Weltalter")
Title: Symphony After Ovid's "Metamorphoses" No. 3 In G Major ("Verwandlung Aktäons In Einen Hirsch")
Disc 2
Title: Symphony After Ovid's "Metamorphoses" No. 4 In F Major ("Die Rettung Der Andromeda Durch Perseus")
Title: Symphony After Ovid's "Metamorphoses" No. 6 In D Major ("Die Versteinerung Des Phineus Und Seiner Freunde")
Title: Symphony After Ovid's "Metamorphoses" No. 5 In A Major ("Verwandlung Der Lycischen Bauern In Frosche")
x

Track List: Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf: Sinfonias

Title: Sinfonia In A Minor ("Il Delirio Delli Compositorì"), Grave A2
Title: Sinfonia In D Major, ("Il Combatiimento Delle Passioni Umani"), Grave D16
Title: Sinfonia In A Major, ("Sinfonia Nazionale Nel Gusto Di Cinque Nazioni"), Grave A10

Comments

hogan_d2
exceptional. . . I agree with jimmie.lee62 . . . it does appear pretty much all exceptional classical musicians come from Austria or nearby.
What a "Simpsons" character he would make!!!!! (???) :-D He & Lisa would be JAMMIN, mon!!!
When I saw his name, I had 2 blink a few times, then look again. Hearing his astonishing music made me hug my phone!!! Thanx, Pandora,1 mo` time!!!!! :-D
Art in the form of music. Love it
jennamt7
La la la XD
Is it just me. or does it appear that pretty much all the really good classical musicians hail from Austria or somewhere nearby?
Pandora hörer mit maechtig sind die feineren Dinge im Leben.
paws12321
It's hilarious, how on my other stations, everyone comments with internet lingos, and here, you are all using words such as: Brilliant, sublime, etc :)
I still enjoy Dittersdorf ensemble works.
Dittersdorf is, by far, my favorite composer, I have been a fan since I heard concerto for double bass and orchestra in late August of 1997. It is remarkable that he is getting more recognition and radio play, his works are both sublime and ethereal.
As a person that loves classical music and Mozart as well I feel this composer is very underrated. I have heard one piece of his music and now I hear more he is quite brilliant. He deserves to be played more often. Thank you.
motivator1
Why haven't we heard more of the work of this brilliant composer? What a shame- it is so refreshing to hear something besides the works of Beethoven and Mozart, Haydn, and Bach. I am so grieved when I read how these geniuses had to die in poverty. Let's hear more of Ditters in the future, I am anxious!
ednbobbie
I'm not very familiar with this composer, but I'm listening to some VERY lovely music of his even as I write this. While I've always loved classical music (& am now 71) I've learned a lot since "hooking up" with Pandora. Keep up the good work. Ed
oui33
Highly underrated composer; his "6 Symphonies after Ovid's Metamorphose s " are brilliant!

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