Obscure Music Monday: Dittersdorf's Concerto for Double Bass No.2 in E Major

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (Nov. 2, 1739 - Oct. 24, 1799) was an Austrian composer and violinist. Introduced to the violin at the age of six, he was able to take lessons thanks to his father's financial position, and one of his violin teachers was able to get him in to a church orchestra when he was only eleven years old. 

After playing in the church orchestra, young Dittersdorf's opportunities began to grow. Prince Joseph of Saxe-Hildburghausen was impressed with his abilities, and invited him to play in his court orchestra. Dittersdorf was taking violin lessons from Francesco Trani at the time, who recommended him to Giuseppi Bonno who taught him composition and counterpoint. Dittersdorf would go on to play in various court orchestras, all while composing a great deal.

Dittersdorf's output is not small--he wrote around 120 symphonies, many operas, chamber works, oratorios, and several concertos. One of his most well-known concertos is the Concerto for Double Bass No. 2 in E MajorThis happy and bouncy work is a standard for double bassists, and gets to work their musical and technical muscles.

The opening of the first movement is essentially a major arpeggio that makes up the main theme; it's bouncy and as cheerful as can be, and rather straightforward. The solo part takes the bassist all throughout the instrument, up to some high harmonics, and some fast sixteenth note work keeps both hands busy. The second movement has a sweet melody, and being that it's the slow movement, the melodic challenges stick out a bit more than the technical ones. The final movement has the double bass starting out with some emphatic double stops as the opening melody, and blossoms from there. The work moves at a very fast clip; between more challenging sixteen note lines, harmonic work, and clean, crisp playing style that's indicative of concertos from that era, the double bassist has their work cut out for them!

Here are some recordings of this great work for you to enjoy!

Ödön Rácz
Czech Chamber Soloists 

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