Dittrich was born in 25-Apr-1861, in Biala, Galicia. He attended the Vienna Conservatory, where he excelled in violin, piano, organ, and composition. His teachers there included Anton Bruckner (1824-1896), who became a friend and supporter.
In November, 1886, Dittrich married Petronella Josefine Leopoldine Lammer (15-Sep-1860 to 4-Jan-1891), nicknamed 'Perine'. Perine too was a musician, in fact, a singer.
Artistic Director, Tokyo School of Music
In 1888, Dittrich accepted an offer to become the first Artistic Director of the Tokyo School of Music, with a three-year contract expiring 1-Sep-1891. The Tokyo School of Music's successor organization is the prestigious Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.
Rudolf Dittrich and his wife Perine traveled to Japan and took up residence in Tokyo. They both worked at the school, teaching and giving performances. They performed not only at the school, but also at the famous Rokumeikan, a large hall in Tokyo whose purpose was to entertain foreigners.
While his musical qualifications were the main reason for Dittrich's selection to head the Tokyo School of Music, another factor was his fluency in English, the main language of instruction at the school. The school's purpose was to teach European classical music to Japanese students, so the teachers were foreigners. Since the Japanese did not expect the foreign teachers to learn Japanese, they selected a single European language as the standard. Students studied English along with their music lessons. Incidentally, Dittrich did learn some Japanese.
Dittrich taught violin, piano, organ, theory, and composition. And, judging from the success of his students, he was an effective teacher. Many of his students went on to distinguished careers, and he is recognized as an important figure in the musical history of Japan. We know that Dittrich was very strict in the classroom, so much so that students sometimes broke into tears. There is even a report of a student strike. One commentator (Irene Suchy) has called his teaching methods 'brutal'. However, his biographer Hiroko Hirasawa has a more sympathetic assessment, saying that while he was very severe during his classes, in other interactions he was an affable man.
Near the end of Dittrich's first 3-year term as Director, his wife Perine died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism (Lungeninfarkt). Her death was unexpected: only a short time before, Perine had sung in a concert. Dittrich took a vacation to deal with his grief, and then returned to the school, which at that time was facing serious financial problems. The government was withdrawing financial support, moving funds into the military buildup for the coming war with China.
Dittrich acquires a Japanese family
In spite of his school's financial difficulties, Dittrich's contract was renewed in 1891 for 3 years, to expire 1-Sep-1894. He continued the work of instruction, performance, and administration without his Austrian wife at his side. Then, sometime in 1891 or 1892, he formed a relationship with a Japanese woman, Kiku Mori (Mori is the family name), with whom he had a son Otto Mori, born 26-Aug-1893. Kiku Mori was a shamisen performer and instructor, and we can assume that she taught Dittrich the words and music for the Japanese songs in his 1894 and 1895 collections.
I do not know whether Rudolf Dittrich and Kiku Mori had a formal wedding ceremony, nor whether the pair lived together, or if so, for how long. Nor do I know whether the existence of Dittrich's Japanese family caused or hastened his departure from Japan (he left one month before the expiration of his contract). Here is what we do know. Dittrich's biographer, Hiroko Hirasawa, has seen and transcribed a declaration that Dittrich signed at the Austro-Hungarian Empire's consulate in Yokahama 3 weeks before his departure from Japan.
Dittrich's Life in Vienna, 1894-1919
After returning to Vienna in 1894, Dittrich had to struggle at first in the musical job market. In the first years after his return he was active as a violinist and violist in chamber music concerts. Eventually he secured more stable employment, rising to become in 1901 one of three Hapsburg court organists. In that role he was a successor to his mentor Anton Bruckner, appointed court organist in 1868. In 1906 Dittrich became professor of organ at the Vienna Conservatory. He was a principal designer for the great organ in the Musikverein auditorium, where the Vienna Philharmonic plays its New Year's concerts.
On 10-Jul-1900, Dittrich married his second Austrian wife, Katharina Kriegle (9-Aug-1880 to 1945). She bore him two sons, Oswald Franz Dittrich (4-Jun-1901 to 10-Oct-1966) and Rudolf (1903-?).
On 18-Oct-1916, during a concert at which he was a performer, Dittrich fell to the floor, the victim of a stroke. He never fully recovered, and died in Vienna on 16-Jan-1919. Dittrich's son Oswald married Maria Anna Girschik (1903-1976). His other Austrian son, Rudolf, moved to Germany in 1928; after that, what became of him is unknown.