Karl Dittersdorf had bright flame of fame that burned brighter
than that of F. Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang A. Mozart. He was one of the most
prolific and versatile of composers, and both his music and life
are fascinating subjects for study and enjoyment. Mozart, Haydn and
other composers of the time had the utmost respect for Dittersdorf.
They would meet frequently to play quartets and other various
pieces that they had composed. If Dittersdorf had gained the
respect of those most-highly regarded composers, surely he is
deserving of our respect as well.
Born as Karl Ditters in 1739, he was raised in a home that was fairly affluent, and he received the benefits of a fine education at a Jesuit school. There, he obtained lessons in music, French, and religion. At the age of seven, he began the study of the violin, which he excelled at immediately. On March 1st, in 1751, Dittersdorf joined the musical court of Prince Joseph Friedrich, and received more intense lessons on the violin from Giuseppe Trani. The violin instructor was impressed with his compositions, and recommended him to Giuseppe Bonno. Bonno gave Dittersdorf lessons in counterpoint and free composition.
He remained in this position until 1761, when the Prince disbanded the entire entourage. He then took up a position in the service of Count Durazzo, who directed the Imperial court. He gained many influences in his new position. Upon the disintegration of this position, he became the Kapellmeister for the Bishop of Grosswardein. Here he began to experiment with talented professionals and he began to write his first pieces for opera and symphony. When this post died out, he was invited to stay in Johannisburg. This was away from the mainstream world of music, but his reputation continued to increase in Vienna.
In 1795, Dittersdorf's patron, the Prince-Bishop, died, and the
composer retired and was granted a small pension, which was barely
enough to survive on. Suffering from arthritis and sadly needing
money, Dittersdorf was invited to live on the property of Baron
Ignaz von Stillfried in Bohemia. There, Dittersdorf remained with
his family until his death on October 24th, 1799.
His Famous Compositions
Karl Dittersdorf composed over 120 symphonies, these being his
most famous compositions. His music contained flair, and intricate
surprises that many of his contemporary musicians did not have. He
also composed chamber
pieces. 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.
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