The VMS label are to be congratulated
for providing this fascinating release
of four of Vienna-born Karl Dittersdorf’s
string quartets. Dittersdorf is not
widely represented in the CD catalogues.
His double-bass concertos are the principal
exceptions although there are also rival
versions of these string quartets on
the CPO, Multisonic and RBM labels.
Revered by church, nobility and the
aristocracy in the golden age of Viennese-classicism,
the career of Karl Dittersdorf in its
heyday even overshadowed that of Haydn
and Mozart. Sadly at the end of his
life he was considered an insignificant
figure with the painful realisation
that he was already largely forgotten.
It may seem remarkable to think today
that Dittersdorf’s operetta the Doctor
and the Apothecary produced in 1786
was said for some years to be more famous
than Mozart’s contemporaneous opera
The Marriage of Figaro.
Dittersdorf was a close
friend of Haydn and Gluck as well as
being a popular and prolific composer
in most genres of music and one of the
most outstanding violinists of his generation.
Particularly fertile in the area of
stage works Dittersdorf produced fifty
such scores, as well as four oratorios,
masses, motets, over a hundred symphonies,
a variety of concertos, songs and chamber
music that including countless number
of pianoforte pieces.
Ferdinand Pohl (1819-1887) a librarian
and archivist to the Gesellschaft der
Musikfreunde in Vienna provided a fascinating
insight on Dittersdorf writing that
, "He possessed a real vein of
comedy, vivacity and quick invention,
bright spontaneous melody, original
instrumentation, and breadth in the
ensembles and finales, qualities which,
exercised on pleasing librettos, made
him the darling of his contemporaries."
Founded in 1984 the
Sharon Quartet make convincing cases
for the investigation of these tautly
shaped scores. It is fascinating to
hear a top-class performance of these
works that are so evocative in many
ways of Haydn and Mozart, yet understandably
without their genius for richness, variety
of expression and subtlety of nuance.
Should anyone doubt the efficacy of
these scores just listen to the Allegro
movement (track 7) that opens the C
major String Quartet which is simply
superb. The Sharon Quartet are clearly
at the top of their form with these
most accomplished performances. The
players display a wide range of tone-colour
and are particularly adept in the more
forceful episodes. In short the Sharon
Quartet perform with remarkable character
Together with a fine
sound quality these performances are
worthy of considerable acclaim. Chamber
music collectors will be in their element
with this release.