This project actually began in a little second hand bookshop in Blandford Forum! Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf is famous among bassists for the beautiful concerto he wrote for us but I had not realised he had written an autobiography until I discovered it while browsing one day.

It’s a unique testament in that Dittersdorf lived at the top of the profession right through the classical era and was good friends with Mozart and Haydn – in fact at times he was more highly regarded than either of those illustrious composers! Probably the most famous incident for which he is remembered now is an evening of quartet playing in which Dittersdorf played first violin, Haydn the second and Mozart viola. So in his autobiography we learn of the daily life of a musician in the classical era, which at times is heart wrenching. He lived through two wars suffering great loss and at a time when the aristocracy, the main employers of musicians were in decline in Europe.

This was a lockdown project for me as it took about 30 hours of preparation for each two-hour episode. I spent hours listening to lots of terrific but little known music from the classical era and I was dreadful for getting caught up with fascinating but not entirely relevant historical threads! I think that in the podcast I helped recreate the world in which Dittersdorf lived. One can read about an historical era but when you also hear the music of the day it invites you into that world in a very personal way. In linking Dittersdorf’s life story to the music in which he and his contemporaries were immersed I found myself transported back to those glorious days in classical Vienna when you might have bumped into Mozart in a coffee house.

As to Dittersdorf’s music I would start with his Bass Concerto No.2 in E played by Odon Racz (DG4812314) and then there’s a lovely disc of his Oboe concertos which are charming with the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra (HCD32062). Also the symphonies of his friend Johann Baptist Vanhal (who played cello in the quartet mentioned above) were a real discovery too (Naxos).

You can hear David’s series on the life of Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf by heading to