Carl DITTERS (Vienna, November 2nd 1739 - Schloß Rothlhotta, October 24th 1799)
In 1746 Carl Ditters started violin lessons in Vienna with Joseph Ziegler and later with Giuseppe Trani, and had composition lessons with Giuseppe Bonno.
From 1761 to 1764 he joined the Theatre Orchestra of the Imperial Court, first as violinist, later as conductor. He was considered one on the finest Viennese violinists, composed his own concertos and many other pieces in different genres, always strongly influenced by Italian opera.
He traveled to Italy with Gluck in 1763, visited Paris in 1764, and became a lifelong friend of Joseph Haydn.
In 1765 Dittersdorf moved to Großwandein and in 1771 to the Castle Johannisberg near Jauernig, where for more than 20 years he served as Kapellmeister to the Prince-Bishop of Breslau. Though in that position he was somehow isolated from the mainstream Viennese music life, he kept many contacts there and remained a popular composer. He wrote many operas, operettas, Singspiele, masses, and oratoria. Some of his c. 120 symphonies bear programmatic titles (such as his 12 Symphonies after Ovid’s Metamorphoses). He also composed keyboard works, string trios and (later in life) string quartets, concertos for one or two violins, viola, violoncello, violone, contrabass, keyboard, oboe (d’amore), horn, and flute.
Empress Maria Theresia ennobled Ditters in 1773 – since then he called himself “Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf”.
It is related that in 1784 he played string quartet with Haydn (second violin), Mozart (viola) and Vanhal (cello).
From 1795 until his death in 1799, he lived on the Bohemian Castle Rothlhotta, in bad health and in a difficult financial situation. A few days before his death he finished dictating his Autobiography to his son, who had it published 1801.
This attractive and virtuoso concerto, composed in or before 1760, is apparently the only one that Dittersdorf wrote for the flute. Despite his young age, he must have been thoroughly familiar with the technical and expressive possibilities of the instrument, unless a gifted dilettante or one of Vienna’s well-known professional flutists such as Mayer, Schmidt or Sartori père gave him valuable insider information and practical help or inspiration. The range and the technical features of this piece show that it was still intended for the one-keyed flute. Flutes with more keys became popular only in the next decades.
As in the majority of 18th-century concertos, no ripieno parts are transmitted, which makes it very likely that the piece was meant to be performed with single strings. Four-part writing is rare, even in the tutti sections. In true Italian fashion of the time, the first and second violins often play in unison. The viola part is seldom independent; it frequently doubles the bass in the higher octave, which makes the use of 16-foot string bass doubtful. The bass part is unfigured, but a harpsichord seems desirable because of some passages where the solo flute is accompanied by the bass only. Otherwise, the solo flute is mostly accompanied by unison violins with or without a bass. Following the 18th-century tradition, the solo part contains very few original ornaments and articulations, and no dynamic markings. Obviously this was considered to be part of the soloist’s freedom and responsibility. Though the string parts include more performance indications, the absence of slurs or ties should not automatically lead to détaché playing. Experienced players will have understood were to add varied articulation, dynamics or small ornaments. The original flute part contains the endings of most longer tutti passages (printed in cue-size in our flute part, but not in the score). Unlike in many other concertos of that era, the soloist is thus not asked to double the first violin during the tuttis.
Fermatas close to the end of each movement indicate that the soloist must improvise a cadenza. In his 1799 Autobiography, Dittersdorf severely criticized the long and virtuoso cadenzas, that were becoming fashionable especially with keyboard players, but also with flutists. Quantz tells us in his Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen (1752) that cadenzas should be playable in one breath and gives clear examples and instructions for improvising them.