Benda, Jiri Antonín


Benda, Jiri Antonín

Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in F

SKU: 1973 Category:


Jiří Antonín Benda
(b. Staré Benátky, Bohemia, 30. June 1722 – d. Köstritz, Germany, 6. November 1795)

Concerto for Viola

Georg (Anton) [Jiří Antonín] Benda was a Bohemian violinist and composer who served as Kapellmeister to Duke Friedrich III of Saxe-Gotha and later worked in Hamburg and Vienna. The son of Johann/Hans Georg [Jan Jiří] Benda, he attended the Piarist school in Kosmonosy (Bohemia) and Jesuit college in Jičín before emigrating with his family to Prussia, where he joined his brothers as a violinist in the court orchestra. In 1750, he received the appointment of Kapellmeister to Duke Friedrich and initially composed cantatas for the court chapel as well various instrumental works; due to ecclesiastical resistance, opera was not produced at Gotha at the beginning of his tenure, but in 1765 his only Italian opera Xindo riconosciuto was performed for the Duchess Luise Dorothea’s birthday and regular productions of Italian intermezzi began soon thereafter.

Benda was granted leave to study in Italy, where he met Johann Adolph Hasse and became acquainted with the operas of Baldassare Galuppi, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Niccolò Piccinni and Giovanni Paisiello. Upon his return to Gotha, he was given the new title of Kapelldirector in 1770 and (upon the death of Friedrich III two years later) began composing stage works in German for the newly-arrived Seyler theatrical troupe, including the melodramas Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea. In 1778, Benda resigned as Kapelldirector (apparently due to aversion for the composer Anton Schweitzer, one of the Seyler troupe) and traveled first to Hamburg, then Vienna in an attempt to secure an appointment by producing his melodramas. When this did not occur, he soon returned to Gotha and retired on a modest pension, occasionally traveling to other cities for performances of his works and preparing items for publication.

Stylistically, Benda’s compositions exhibit the Italianate characteristics (accompanied recitative, extensive arias, funeral choruses, etc.) one would expect from a composer who was then chiefly known for staged vocal works and his sphere of influence included Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who praised Benda in a 1778 letter to his father Leopold. His instrumental works, which include keyboard sonatas, sinfonias and concertos, foreshadow early Romantic developments (particularly in their slow movements) while retaining standard Baroque characteristics of long, periodic themes and robust rhythmic passages in unison; the sinfonias (which are from his “middle” period) are in three movements and reveal distinct sonata form


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