Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799, Austrian)

Dittersdorf was in fact born Ditters, and it is only late in his life that he acquired the title of nobility “von Dittersdorf”. Born in Vienna, he was one of those numerous and talented composers who vied for success in the second half of the 18th Century in the capital of the Austrian empire, although, like his good friend Haydn (not born in Vienna but trained there), his engagements at the service of various princes and nobility soon led him away to more remote parts of the empire. Imagine Dittersdorf, Haydn, Mozart and Vanhal playing string quartets together – they did, in the mid 1770s! Now of course Dittersdorf is among the vast throng who have been dwarfed in the eyes of posterity in the shadow of the holy trinity Haydn-Mozart-Beethoven. But like so many, his music is often enjoyable, if you are into the pleasures of the Classical style, from galant to pre-Romanic “Sturm und Drang”. As with so many (now considered) “minor” composers from the era, I started listening to Dittersdorf to better understand the environment from which grew Haydn and Mozart, with the pleasures afforded by the music a by-product, so to speak, of that musicological investigation, but I end up, as always, just enjoying the genuine pleasures afforded by the music, with the musicology becoming a mere by-product of the listening.

Here’s the Dittersdorf I have in my collection:

String Quartets 1, 3, 4, 5. Franz Schubert Quartet (rec. 6/88). Cpo 999 038-2 (1989), barcode 761203903825 also 4010115990383

String Quartets Nos. 4-6, String Quintet No. 3. Kubín Quartet, Jiri Hošek. Multisonic 3104782131 (1999), 741941047821 (not yet reviewed)

Sinfonia in A minor (Grave a1), Oboe Concerto in G major (Lane 41). Heinz Holliger, Camerata Bern, Thomas Füri ’82 (in “Die frühe Wiener Schule / The Early Viennese School” with works of Monn, Starzer, Albrechtsberger, Wagenseil, Salieri, Anton Zimmermann, Vanhal). 2 Archiv Produktion 410 599-2, barcode 028941059925 (not yet reviewed)

Same recording of Dittersdorf’s Oboe Concerto also on Archiv Produktion 427 125-2, barcode 028942712522 with Salieri’s Triple Concerto from same set and Oboe Concerto of Ludwig August Lebrun (not yet reviewed)

Concerto for Double Bass No. 1, Sinfonia Concertante for Viola & Double Bass Concerto for Viola. Lubomir Malý, František Posta, Dvořák Chamber Orchestra, František Vajnar. Supraphon 11 0951 2 (1993). VERY boring disc – but NOT because of the composer.

Sinfonia in D major: andantino for Oboe & orchestra / Sinfonia Concertante for viola and double-bass. Adrian Petrescu (ob), Gabriel Bălă (viola), Stefan Thomasz (db-bs), Virtuosi Bucharest, Horia Andreescu (in “5 Centuries of German Music in Transylvania” with works of Bakfark, Speer, Sartorius, Schenker, Berger and anonymous from Codex Caïoni). Electrorecord EDC 168 (1995)

Sinfonia Concertante for viola & double bass. Jiří Hudec, Josef Suk, Virtuosi di Praga, Rudolf Krecmer (+ Sinfonias Concertantes of Stamitz, Haydn). 1 Discover International DICD 920274 (1995), barcodes 4010479002746, 741952427421, 010479002746

6 Symphonies after Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Cantilena, Adrian Shepherd. (2 CDs) Chandos 8564/5 (1987), barcode 5014682856423 (not yet reviewed)

6 Symphonies after Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Prague Chamber Orchestra, Bohumil Gregor. (2 CDs) Supraphon 11 0579-2 (1988), barcode 8596911057926 (not yet reviewed)

6 Symphonies after Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Wiener Sinfonietta, Kurt Rapf. (2 CDs) Calig CAL 50885/6 (1989), barcode 4011354508858 (not yet reviewed)

6 Symphonies after Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Failoni Orchestra, Hanspeter Gmür (rec. 4/95). Naxos 8.553568 (1995) barcode 730099436823 and 8.553569 (1995) barcode 730099436922 (not yet reviewed)

Dittersdorf Vol. 2: Symphonies in C major (Grave C15), D major (D4), A minor (a1), Serenade in F major (Grave IV:F3). The Oradea Philharmonic Orchestra, Romeo Rîmbu (rec. 9/92). Olympia OCD 425 (1993), barcode 5015524404253

Sinfonia in D minor Gr. d1 / F major Gr. F7 / G minor Gr. g1. Failoni Orchestra, Uwe Grodd. Naxos 8.553974 (1998), barcode 730099497428. A bit disappointing, this one. The music is pleasant but plumbs no depths.

Sinfonia in A minor “Il delirio delli compositori, ossia il gusto d’Oggidi” Gr. a2 / Sinfonia in D major “Il Combattimento delle passioni umani” Gr. D16 / Sinfonia A major “Sinfonia nazionale nel gusto di cinque nazione” Gr. A10. Failoni Orchestra, Uwe Grodd. Naxos 8.553975 (1998), barcode 730099497527.

Sinfonias in D major D6, E-flat major Eb9, A major A6. Lisbon Metropolitan Orchestra, Alvaro Cassuto (rec. 9/05). Naxos 8.570198 (2006), barcode 747313019878 (not yet reviewed)

And then you have the extraordinary and hugely original Symphony in C major for large orchestra “La Prise de la Bastille”, recorded by Concerto Köln in 1989 on their program “La Prise de la Bastille: Music of the French Revolution” (with works of Davaux, Martin, Dittersdorf, Gossec), on Capriccio 10 280: “a magnificent work, richly orchestrated, powerful and dramatic, with pre-echoes of Beethoven’s revolutionary might and high-spirits (just try the beginning of the finale)” as I write in my review.

Little is known of the circumstances of composition, and Dittersdorf is not known to have travelled to Paris in the decade of the revolution (in fact, I don’t know that he ever did, although I do think that some of his works were published in Paris). Well, sure. It turns out that the symphony is not by Dittersdorf, but by an obscure Flemish hornist and composer, Othon-Joseph Vandenbroecke (1758-1832, also spelled Vandenbroek, Vandenbroeck, van den Broeck, or van den Broek). I don’t know how it became attributed to Dittersdorf, but there went my theory about Dittersdorf unrecognized genius. Now I have a theory about Vandebroecke’s unrecognized genius.

Giob (Oratorio). Markus Schäfer, Romelia Lichtenstein etc, Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleiner Konzert, Hermann Max (rec. 5/2000). 2 CDs Cpo 999 790-2 (2001), barcode 761203979028 8.553568 (not yet reviewed)

Doktor und Apotheker (opera). Harald Stamm, Waltraud Meier etc., Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie, James Lockhart (rec. 6/81). (LP) RBM 3101/03 (1981), (CD) Bayer 100238/39 (1995), barcode 4011563102380

Additional resources

Dittersdorf catalog numbers for the symphonies, from the modern catalog estalished by Margaret Grupp Grave (1977 revised 1986), with the corresponding numbers from the 1900 catalog of Carl Krebs. Priceless, when you are trying to sort out who recorded which symphony. And, from the same website, here’s the index to the catalog of the other works.

Dittersdorf’s autobiography (link will open a .pdf document under a new tab), completed three days before his death, in an English translation by A.D. Coleridge – not the poet, Arthur Duke, an English lawyer and amateur musician, but thanks anyway.

Additional elements of discography

As I was working on this entry, I compiled for my own use a further discography of Dittersdorf – stuff that I don’t have in my collection. It doesn’t claim to be complete, just a primer (in particular, I’ve left out the ubiquitous Harp Concerto, as well as the instrumental sonatas and keyboard music), but I thought I’d share.

String Quartets

String Quartets 2, 6, String Quintets 3 & 6. Franz Schubert Quartet (rec. 3/91). Cpo 999 122-2 (1992), 4010115991229, 761203912223

Six String Quartets. Gewandhaus Quartet (rec. 80/81). (LP) 2 Eterna 8 27 691-692, (CD) 2 Berlin Classics 0092612BC (1984/1996), 782124926120

String Quartet No. 3 G-Dur. Mannheimer Streichquartett (+ Mozart Rondo K 464a Fragment Ersteinspielung, SQ No. 18 K 464). RBM RMBCD 0063108 (1988), 0608917894332

String Quartets Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5. Sharon Quartet 2/95. VMS 156 (2004), 9120012231566

String Quartet No. 6 A major. The Revolutionary Drawing Room (in A Viennese Quartet Party + Vanhal SQ in E-flat major, Mozart Quartet Dissonanz K 465). Omnibus Classics CC 5006 (2014), 5023581500627

A list of LP recordings of Dittersdorf’s Concertos and Sinfonia Concertante for double bass.
In Sinfonia concertante for Double Bass and Viola, Kontrabassist is listed first. Reference to LP catalogs – Schwann, Gramophone or German Bielefelder – are meant to provide an approximation of publication date. When I give a reference it is always the first I’ve found, but my catalog series being staggered (I try to have one every 5 years), references should be taken as meaning “no later than” rather than “as early as”. I also list, when indicated in the Gramophone catalogs, date of review in The Gramophone, but that gives a notion only of distribution to the UK market. Links will open new tab to websites and pages where you can visualise cover image and more info. Some may be invalid because by the time you get here the offers have lapsed. Let me know

(LP) Bernard Spieler, Karl Schouten, Amsterdam Kammerorchester, André Rieu (+ Haydn, Quantz). Telefunken Das Alte Werk AWT 9429-C (mono), SAWT 9429-B (1962, listed in Bielefelder Katalog 1/66, reviewed in Gramophone 6/67), Telefunken “Musik für Alle” NT 746 (reviewed in Gramophone  8/73), Telefunken “Aspekte” 6.41 344 AH (Bielfelder 1/81, Gramophone 9/82)
Note: Poor violist and double bass players K. Schouten and B. Spieler almost seemed condemned to have their first name reduced for eternity to a mere initial, because that’s how they are listed on every edition I’ve seen of this Telefunken LP. I had an especially hard time establishing that the B. of Spieler stood for Bernard, because “spieler” in German means player, and of course any search on Kontrabass Spieler would yield some double bass player! It is thanks to one track from the 10″ mono Telefunken BT 5024-E / D-117 “So Oft Ich Meine Tobackspfeife”, with your hallowed group of early Dutch period-instrument players Leonhard and Bylsma, that I was able to return him his complete name…. Conductor André Rieu is not the infamous crossover saccharine violinist… but his dad.

(LP) Concerto for harpsichord, Sinfonia Concertante, Concerto for flute. Robert Veyron-Lacroix, Georg Hörtnagel, Georg Retyi, Kurt Redel (flute), Munich Pro Arte CO, Redel. Erato LDE 3273 (mono), STE 50173 (1964), Westminster WST-17060 (stereo), Christophorus CGLP 75794 (mono), SCGLP 75795 (Bielefelder 1/66), Columbia / EMI Electrola SMC 95003 (Bielefelder 1/66)

(LP) Sinfonia Concertante, Concerto for Double Bass in E, Violin Concerto. Burkhard Kräutler, Fritz Haendschke, Denés Szygmondy, Vienna CO, Paul Angerer (circa 1965). Amadeo AVRS 6283 (stereo) (Bielefelder 1/66), Discapon APON-4225 (listed in Schwann 7/69, have not found online listings), Mace Records MXX 9096 (listed in Schwann 7/74 concurrently with Discapon)

(LP) Sinfonia Concertante (Georg Hörtnagel, Günter Lemmen), Concerto for double bass in E major, Harp Concerto (Helga Storck). Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn, Jörg Faerber. Turnabout TV 4005 (mono), TV 34005S (circa 1965, Gramophone 3/66), FSM 33 0 40 (Bielefelder 1/81). Reissued to CD Carlton Classics “Turnabout” 3037100062, barcode 5030371000625

(LP) Konzert für Kontrabass E dur, Sinfonia Concertante. Ludwig Streicher, Christl Gotschlich, Wiener Barockensemble, Theodor Gushlbauer (+ Mozart Aria K 612 Walter Berry) Amaedo AVRS 5064 (Bielefelder 2/71)

(LP) Sinfonia Concertante. Rodney Slatford, Stephen Shingles, Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields, Marriner (rec. 7-10 July 1975) (+ Keyper, Michael Haydn, Rossini), EMI ASD 3264 (“Music for double bass”), EMI 1C 063-02 788 Q (“Musik für Kontrabass”) (1976, reviewed Gramophone 11/76)

(LP) Sinfonia Concertante, Konzert für Kontrabass E-dur, Konzert für Harfe. Günter Klaus, Philipp Naegele, Rachel Taltman, Heidelberger Kammerorchester (rec. 2/78). Da Camera Magna SM 91043 (Bielefelder 1/81). CD Bayer Records BR 100 322 CD barcode 4011563103226 or 675754299125

(LP) Sinfonia Concertante.
Enchro Radukanov, Mincho Minchev, 
Sofia Soloists Chamber Ensemble, Emil Tabakov (+ Vivaldi, Bottesini) Balkanton BCA 10802 (release date unknown), (CD) Concerto 25016 (1989) no barcode, Balkanton BCM85524 “Virtuoso Double Bass Concertos”, barcode 3800152012565


Concertos (CD) listed in rough chronological order of publication. Some of it is in shorthand but I think it’ll be clear to all. Links will open new tab to various website where you can view cover art when not available on the various Amazons.

Violin Co in G major, Co for Double Bass D major, Sinfonia concertante. Bohumil Kotmel, Ladislav Kyselak, Miroslav Jelinek, Czech Chamber Soloists, Leos Svarovsky. Panton 81 1186 (1992), 8596981118626

Symphonie concertante, Viola Concerto in F major, Divertimento D major for violin viola & cello. Petr Přibyl viola, Jakub Waldmann double-bas, Ondřej Kukal violin, David Rejchrt cello, Jihočeská komorní filharmonie České Budějovice, Ondřej Kukal. Music Vars VA0021-2031 (1992), barcode 8594011310095

Same. Evro Productions Luxembourg EVCL593045 (publication date unknown), no barcode, found on different Amazons under barcode 3254872652745. Many thanks to record collector Alan Pearcey for kindly providing the information on that one.

Same. (Orchestra now called) The South Bohemia Chamber PO, Ondrej Kukal. Campion RRCD 1342 (1997), barcode 739574134223

Double Bass Concertos 1 & 2. Chi-Chi Nwanoku, Swedish CO, Paul Goodwin (+ Vanhal). Hyperion CDA 67179 (2000), 034571171791

Violin Concertos of Dittersdorf, Pugnani, Vaclav Pichl (E major, G major, D major). Prague CO, Kitka Adamusova. 1 Gramohonvé Zadovy Lodenice / GZ Digital Media L1 0110-2 031 (2001), 8596961011022

Complete Oboe Concertos (D minor L25b, C major L39, A major L43b, C major L24, G major L42, C major L40a). Lajos Lencsés, Liszt Ferenc CO, Janos Rolla. Hungaroton HCD 32062 (2002), 5991813206220
According to the website linked above with Dittersdorf’s catalog numbers, these are NOT the “complete” Oboe Concertos. Jay D. Lane, whose catalog of Dittersdorf’s Concertos (from his 1997 Yale PhD dissertation  “The Concertos of Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf”) is now authoritative, lists seven extant Oboe Concertos (four in C major, two in G major and one in D-major) and one for Oboe d’amore in A major. Lencsés then leaves out one in C and one in G. In particular, the G major that he plays is not the same as the one played by Heinz Holliger on the Early Viennese School Archiv collection which I have (and referenced above), L42 vs L41.

Klavierkonzert A Dur, B-Dur (+ Haydn Son 38). Christiane Klonz, Thüringer Symphoniker Saalfeld-Rudostadt, Oliver Weder. Classical Excellence ClaXL ECD 0910 (2009), 4260137510131

Complete Works for solo double bass & orchestra: Cos 1 & 2, Sinfonia Concertante, Duetto for Viola & Db bass. Leon Bosch, Robert Smissen, ASMF, Kenneth Sillito. Meridian CDE84610 (2013), 5015959461029

Concerto for 2 violins (L4). George Clifford, Dominika Fehér, Amadé Players, Nicholas Newland (in Forgotten Vienna + Ordonez Sinfonia, Vanhal Symphony in A major, Violin Co in B flat major, Requiem). Resonus Classics RES10157 (2015), 5060262790618


Symphonies (mostly)

Dittersdorf vol. 1: Flute Concerto in E minor (Gavril Costea, Cluj-Napoca PO, Mircea Cristescu ’77) / Symphony in C major C5 (CO of the Oradea PO, Miron Ratiu ’84) / Concerto Double Bass in E major (Stefan Thomasz, Arad PO, Nicolae Boboc ’77) / Symphony D major D10 (CO of the Oradea Philharmonic, Miron Ratiu ’84). Olympia OCD 405 5015524004057

(for volume 2 see above among those in my collection)

Dittersdorf vol. 3: Symphonies in E minor (e1), F flat major (Es3), E major (E2), D major (D9), Five Nations Symphony in A major (A10). Oradea PO, Romeo Rîmbu (rec. 9/92). Olympia OCD 426 (1993), 5015524404260

And with all that, in the (no so abundant) CDs I’ve located featuring symphonies of Dittersdorf, the only duplications (leaving aside the Ovid Symphonies and the Andantino for oboe and orchestra from the very elusive “Symphony in D major” – Dittersdorf composed 34 symphonies in D major, and that’s not counting those of dubious attribution) are the Symphony in A major A10 “In the taste of five Nations” (conducted by Romeo Rîmbu on Olympia’s vol. 3, OCD 426 and on Naxos’ 8.553975, conducted by Uwe Grodd) and the Symphony in A minor Grave a1 (Camerata Bern under Thomas Füri on Archiv’s collection “The Early Viennese School”, and Romeo Rîmbu on Olympia vol. 2, OCD 425).

Vocal and opera

Requiem, Offertorium, Lauretanische Litanei. Regensburger Domspatzen, Collegium Musicum München, Georg Ratzinger. (LP) (“Geistliche Musik”)  Deutsche Harmonia Mundi Anthologie ostdeutscher Musik IOM 795 D (1987), (CD) Ars musici 1158-2 (1996) barcode 4017563115825, Ars Musici  232221 (2009), barcodes 885150322215, 4011222322210, also 4036526630458

Ester (oratorio). Magda Kalmár, Ilona Tokody, Klára Takács, Livia Budai, József Horváth, Lajos Miller etc. Budapest Madrigal Choir, Ferenc Liszt CO, Ferenc Szekeres. (LP) Hungaroton SLPX 11745/46 (1978), (CD) HCD 11745-2 (1987), barcode 750582146220

Giob. Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert, Hermann Max live 1999 (Markus Schäfer, Simone Kermes etc). 2 Koch International 5 2271-2 (2000), barcode 664125227126

(LP) Doktor und Apotheker. Bernard Paumgartner (Hans von Welz, Thea Lowrenciewicz etc), Camera Accademica des Salzburger Mozarteums. Philips A 00538 L (mono), 835 022 AY (Bielfelder 1/61)

Comments are welcome