Dittersdorf had composition lessons from Giuseppe Bonno in his native Vienna and served as a violinist in the orchestra of the Prince of Sachsen-Hildburghausen, before joining the imperial theatre. He then served as Kapellmeister to the Bishop of Grosswardein, where, in 1762, he succeeded Michael Haydn. In 1769 he became Kapellmeister to the Prince-Bishop of Breslau, at this period acquiring the patent of nobility that added to the name of Ditters the honorific ‘von Dittersdorf’. Conditions in Johannisberg, the seat of the Prince-Bishop, deteriorated in the political circumstances of the time, and on the death of his employer in 1795 he moved with his family to join the household of a nobleman in Bohemia. Before his death he dictated his fascinating autobiography to his son, a vivid account of musical life in his time.