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Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf: Overview


Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf: Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (b. Vienna, 2 Nov 1739; d. Neuhof, 24 Oct 1799).



Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf' father was a costumier to the court and the theatre in Danzig; the child Carl was given a good education and soon distinguished himself musically, sufficiently so to be taken up by the Prince Joseph Friedrich von Hildburghausen who engaged the boy for his orchestra. At the outbreak of the Seven Years War in 1758, the nineteen-year-old Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf and the other members of the orchestra accompanied the Prince on his campaign. When peace came, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf attempted to leave the service of the Prince but was arrested and brought back. Later he was dismissed and supported himself by taking a number of engagements. He was befriended by Gluck with whom he travelled over the Alps to Venice. Back in Vienna, he became a friend of Haydn and entered the service of the Austrian Emperor Joseph II, but soon left when refused a rise in salary.



Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf' next engagement was as Kapellmeister to the Bishop of Grosswardein whose palace was near Pressburg (now Bratislava). For the Bishop, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf composed a number of orchestral pieces and also oratorios and short operas. The Bishop's worldly life-style led to his being denounced to the Empress Maria Theresa, and this in turn led to his having to dismiss his orchestra. Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf now set out upon a grand tour, but got.only as far as Trieste where he fell in love with a disreputable ballerina from whose clutches his friends had to extricate him. Subsequently, he entered the service of the Prince Bishop of Breslau, which led to his appointment as Chief Forester in the Principality of Neisse. The Prince allowed him to restore a small theatre on his estate, and to collect a company of singers from Vienna, among them a soprano named Nicolini whom Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf married.



In 1773, again with the help of the Prince, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf bought himself into the nobility and became Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf. He continued to compose for the Prince's orchestra and soon the standard of performance and of composition at the Prince's court became much admired. The outbreak of the war of the Bavarian Succession interrupted these activities, and Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf began now to compose for the public in Vienna. He was also in demand in Vienna as a performer, and it is known that on at least one occasion he participated in a string quartet whose other players were Haydn, Mozart, and the Bohemian composer Vanhal.



Between 1786 and 1791 Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf composed seven operas, six of which were staged in Vienna, the most popular being his comic opera Doktor und Apotheke which is still occasionally performed. Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf also wrote an autobiography which makes good reading, and in which he says of Mozart's music that 'hardly has the hearer grasped one beautiful thought, when another of greater fascination dispels the first, and this goes on throughout, so that in the end it is impossible to retain any one of these beautiful melodies'.



Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf's last years were spent in poverty and ill-health, though he continued to compose operas and symphonies until the end of his life, and to work on his autobiography which was published posthumously in 1801.



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