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Carl Ditters yonDittersdorf (1739-1799)

Sinfonia in A minor'II delirio delli compositori, ossia II gusto d'oggid?¼'

Sinfonia in D major'II Combattimento delle passioni umani'

Sinfonia in A major'Sinfonia nazionale nel gusto di cinque nazioni'

Carl Ditters, later Baron Ditters von Dittersdorf, was one of the mostprolific and versatile of Haydn's and Mozart's Viennese contemporaries. He wasalso one of the most engaging professionalmusicians of his generation and his famous autobiography, completed two daysbefore his death, reveals a man of charm, vivacity and learning.

Ditters grew up in comfortable financial circumstances and was able toenjoy the benefits of a good general education at a Jesuit school in additionto receiving private tuition in music, French and religion. He began violinlessons at the age of seven and through the influence of his second teacher,Joseph Ziegler, was appointed as a member of the orchestra at the Benedictinechurch on the Freyung several years later. On 1st March, 1751, he joined themusical establishment of Prince Joseph Friedrich von Sachsen-Hildburghausen andbegan a more disciplined course of violin study with Giuseppe Trani. Trani wasimpressed with his pupil's early attempts at composition and commended him to GiuseppeBonno who offered him instruction in Fuxian counterpoint and free composition.

Ditters remained in service until 1761 when the Kapelle was dissolved followingthe Prince's departure from Vienna to assume the regency in Hildburghausen.

Along with the other musicians, Ditters was taken into the employ of CountDurazzo, Theatre Director at the Imperial Court.

Ditters's prolonged contact with dramatic music during the early 1760sthrough his membership of the theatre orchestra proved highly influential onhis development as an artist. Nonetheless, when his contract with Durazzoexpired in the winter of 1764 he chose to accept the post of Kapellmeister tothe Bishop of Grosswardein, recently vacated by Michael Haydn, rather than workunder the authority of Count Wenzel Spork, Durazzo's successor. In his newpost, Ditters assembled a good orchestra and a small company of singers. Hebegan to compose his first vocal works, including an oratorio Isacco andseveral operas, in addition to maintaining a steady output of instrumentalmusic.

In the course of his travels following the dissolution of the Bishop'sKapelle in 1769, Ditters met his next patron, Count Schaffgotsch, Prince-Bishopof Breslau. He agreed to anextended stay at the Prince-Bishop's castle at Johannisberg probably littleexpecting that he would spend much of the next twenty-odd years there. Althoughisolated somewhat from the main stream, Ditters's reputation did not suffer byhis being based at Johannisberg. His instrumental music circulated widely andhis vocal music, in particular his operas, operettas and Singspiels, enjoyedgreat popularity in Vienna and elsewhere. Through the Prince-Bishop's officesDitters was created a Knight of the Goldcn Spur in 1770, and, two years later,was granted a certificate of nobility by the Empress Maria Theresia, afterwhich he adopted the additional surname 'von Dittersdorf'.

After the Prince-Bishop's death in 1795 Dittersdorf received a smallpension barely sufficient for his needs. Handicapped by arthritis and short ofmoney, he was offered lodgings by Baron Ignaz von Stillfried on his property inBohemia remaining there with his family until his death on 24th October 1799.

Dittersdorf wrote fluently and attractively in all genres and the numberof prints and manuscript copies of his works which survive today bear witnessto his great contemporary popularity. Within his instrumental ceuvre, thesymphonies, of which there are well over a hundred, hold a particularlyimportant place and provide the best insight into his development as acomposer. Like Haydn's symphonies, those of Dittersdorf were written over aperiod of several decades and reveal an extraordinary wealth of novel andconvincing solutions to problems of form. One very distinctive quality the twocomposers share - and one for which they were roundly criticised by pedanticcritics in their own lifetimes - is wit. This is revealed both on a subtle,musical level by deceptive phrase lengths, rhythmic surprises and unexpectedmodulations, and, more obviously in Dittersdorf's case, by his penchant forwriting descriptive music.

Unlike the famous symphonies based on Ovid's Melamarphoses, theworks on this disc are not programmatic in a narrative sense so much asdescriptive, and, in the case of the Sinfonia 'Il deliria dellicompositori, ossia Il gusto d'oggid?¼' and the Sinjonia nazionalenel gusto di cinque nazioni, less descriptive than satirical. The Sinfonia 'Ildelirio delli compositori, assia Il gusto d'oggid?¼' was advertised for salein Supplement XIII (1779-80) of the Breitkopf Catalogue and was probablywritten several years earlier. In the late 1760s and early 1770s a number ofcomposers, Dittersdorf among them, wrote dark, troubled minor-key symphonies ofquite extraordinary depth and power. In Haydn's case, his patron, PrinceNicholas Esterhazy, took active steps to warn Haydn off this line ofdevelopment perhaps sensing in this revolutionary music the whiff of sedition.

Knowing Haydn's 'Sturm und Drang' symphonies and virtually nothing byany of his major contemporaries, some nineteenth-century and earlytwentieth-century biographers attributed this style of composition to a greatromantic crisis in the composer's life. If that were the case, then research inrecent years has established beyond a shadow of a doubt that Vanhal,Dittersdorf, Mozart, Beck and even the genial Johann Christian Bach allsuffered similar crises in the space of a decade. We now know, as Dittersdorlsurely did, that this was fashion not mass hysteria and wherever fashion leadssatire is sure to follow.

The nervous, syncopated opening theme of Dittersdorf's symphony which sotellingly depicts 'the delirium of the composers', contains all the hallmarksof the 'Sturm und Drang' style. Dittersdorf's title, however, also impliesa degree of confusion and more than a nod in the direction of current tastesand the smooth, dance-like second subject, which also figures prominently inthe development section, is the epitome of fashionable 1770s style.

Dittersdorf's target in the second movement is rather less obvious although itsdualistic thematic treatment of the strings and winds brings to mind Haydn'shugely popular incidental music to Regnard's play 'Le distrait', nowbetter known in its guise as Symphony No. 60 in C major, Il'distratto', whose main protagonist is 'distraught' to the point of beingin a delirium. This feeling that Dittersdorf's good friend Haydn may be thetarget for the symphony is strengthened in the two subsequent movements. Thecanonic Minuetto is a movement of which even Haydn, the supremecontrapuntist of the age, could be justly proud and the sweetly lyrical Trio,with its sudden displaced accent, is also strongly Haydnesque in flavour.

The quirky, energetic Finale continues the allusion and such is its vivacityand musical quality that we can be quite sure that Dittersdorf intended tocompliment rather than denigrate the great musical trend-setter.

The Sinfonia 'Il Combattimento delle passioni umani' ('TheBattle of the Human Passions'), written around 1771, presents a more typicaltheme for musical depiction and parody. In a sequence of seven movementsDittersdorf depicts Pride, Humility, Madness, Love, Contentment,
Item number 8553975
Barcode 730099497527
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Classical
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von
Dittersdorf, Carl Ditters von
Conductors Grodd, Uwe
Grodd, Uwe
Orchestras Failoni Chamber Orchestra
Failoni Chamber Orchestra
Producers Benedek, Tamas
Benedek, Tamas
Disc: 1
Sinfonia in A major, Grave A10, "Sinfonia nazional
1 I. Allegro assai
2 II. Andantino
3 III. Minuetto
4 IV. Presto (non troppo)
5 I. Il Superbo: Andante con maesta
6 II. Il Humile: Andante
7 III. Il Matto: Minuetto poco allegro - Il Amante:
8 IV. Il Contento: Andante
9 V. Il Constante: Minuetto and Trio
10 VI. Il Malinconico: Adagio
11 VII. Il Vivace: Allegro assai
12 I. Tedesco: Andantino
13 II. Italiano: Allegro
14 III. Inglese: Allegretto
15 IV. Francesco: Minuetto - Turco: Trio
16 V. Finale
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