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Karl Ditters von DITTERSDORF (1739-1799)
String quartet No. 1 in D major [14:08]
String quartet No. 3 in G major [18:29]
String quartet No. 4 in C major [15:52]
String quartet No. 5 in E flat [15:57]
Sharon Quartet
Recorded in February 1995 in Maastricht, Belgium

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.

Musicologist Carl 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 and spirit.

Together with a fine sound quality these performances are worthy of considerable acclaim. Chamber music collectors will be in their element with this release.
Michael Cookson



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