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Carl Ditters von DITTERSDORF (1739-1799)
Sinfonia in D major, Grave D6 (1788) [19:46]  
Sinfonia in A major, Grave A6 (1781) [13:02]  
Sinfonia in E flat major, Grave Eb9 (1782) [29:08]
Lisbon Metropolitan Orchestra/Álvaro Cassutto
rec. 20-23 September 2005, Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal
NAXOS 8.570198 [61:56]

Dittersdorf began his musical career as a violinist in the Prince of Saxe-Hildenburghausen's orchestra in Vienna, for ten years from 1751. He then served under Count Durazzo at the imperial court theatre. As Kapellmeister to the Bishop of Oradea, for four years from 1765, he wrote his first vocal works. He was then employed at both Breslau and Vienna, where his success was such that he was created Knight of the Golden Spur, until in 1773 he was ennobled. He composed a series of operas, mostly singspiels, for Vienna, of which the most famous is Doctor und Apotheker (1786). During the decade that Mozart worked in Vienna (1781-1791), Dittersdorf gained a greater number of operatic performances.
Dittersdorf was widely renowned in his day. He was much admired by Mozart, with whom he played chamber music in Vienna. His instrumental output was particularly prolific, including some 40 concertos and 120 symphonies. These three examples reveal the sure technique that lay behind his artistic success. The performances are accomplished, though they lack that certain sparkle that can raise music to another level. In particular the string sound is rather generalised, and with music that often moves at tempo Allegro that becomes an important issue.
The same formula operates across all three works. Dittersdorf, like his more famous friends and contemporaries Haydn and Mozart, understood the importance of creating a cohesive balance across a multi-movement composition, and this he achieved with consummate artistry, If this achievement seems less secure in the Symphony in E flat major it is simply because it is constructed on a larger scale, and the material does not have quite the personality to sustain it.
With a composer such as Dittersdorf, the onus is on the accompanying documentation to provide the necessary support and encouragement to the project as a whole. The notes by Allan Radley are well planned, though stronger on generalities than on the music in hand; there is scarcely a mention of the A major Symphony, for example.
Dittersdorf is undoubtedly a composer who continues to deserve attention, and  in that sense this Naxos issue is a commendable enterprise.
Terry Barfoot


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