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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Tuesday, September 1

Mozart "dissed" by Dittersdorf?

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1785, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dedicated six of his string quartets to his friend and older colleague, Joseph Haydn. Earlier that year, Haydn heard some of them performed in Vienna. Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang’s father, was also present, and must have been elated when Haydn said, “Before God and as an honest man I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name.”

Mozart’s quartets were published by the Viennese firm Artaria and generated some much-needed income for Wolfgang. Whether they made money for their publisher as well is another matter. Three years later, one of Mozart’s lesser contemporaries, Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, offered Artaria six of HIS string quartets at the same price they paid Mozart, with a note that read, “I am certain you will do better with MY quartets than you did with Mozart’s, which deserve the highest praise, but which, because of their overwhelming and unrelenting artfulness, are not to EVERYONE’s taste.”

Apparently Mozart’s quartets were deemed too “brainy” for public taste. Well, Dittersdorf may have sold better in the 1780’s, but these days performers and audiences find Mozart’s “unrelenting artfulness” more to their taste than Dittersdorf’s sugary confections.

Music Played in Today's Program

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) String Quartet in G, K.387 Emerson String Quartet DG 439 861

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739 - 1799) String Quartet No. 4 in C Gewandhaus Quartet Berlin Classics 9261

Additional Information

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