Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf
String Quartet No.4 in C Major
Dittersdorf's String Quartet No.4 in C Major is the fourth of a set of six which were completed in 1788 and published the following year. Though certainly familiar with the style of Haydn and Mozart with whom he was friends, like Ignaz Pleyel, he chose to ignore the four movement layout favored by them and opted for the Mannheim style which typically had three movements. The work opens with a propulsive Allegro. The middle movement, marked Menuetto, Allegro assai, begins in march-like fashion and has several musette interludes with the cello's double stops creating a bagpipe like effect. The finale, Andante e con gusto, is a folk song like theme with a set of four very fine wrought variations and an Allegro coda.
Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799) was born in Vienna and was recognized as a child prodigy on the violin and one of the great violin virtuosos of the 18th century. The first part of his life was spent as a touring virtuoso and especially in Italy he enjoyed many triumphs. The second half of his life was spent as a composer and music director at various aristocratic courts. His output voluminous and he is generally regarded after Mozart and Haydn as one of the most important representatives of the Vienna Classical era. Originally, his music showed the influence of the Italian composers but as time went by his familiarity with the compositions of Mozart and Haydn greatly changed his compositional style. He knew both men personally and the three of them sometimes performed string quartets in Vienna along with Vanhal. Dittersdorf played first violin, Haydn second violin, Mozart viola and Vanhal played cello.
Though Dittersdorf's quartets were known and played for many years after his death, they have more or less disappeared from the concert stage and the stands of amateurs which is a shame as they make a fine and fresh alternate to the too often performed Haydn and Mozart quartets.