BENDA, J. A.: Sinfonias Nos. 1-6 (Carel Stadtherr/ Christian Benda/ Miloslav Kulhan/ Prague Chamber Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.553408)
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Jiri Antonin Benda (1722-1795)
Sinfonias Vol. 1
Sinfonia No. 1 in D Major
Sinfonia No. 2 in G Major
Sinfonia No. 3 in C Major
Sinfonia No. 4 in F Major
Sinfonia No. 5 in G Major
Sinfonia No. 6 in E Flat Major
(Solo Violin: KarelStadtherr; cadenza composed by Sebastian Benda)
The Benda family has occupied an important and continuing placein music in Germany
for some 250 years. The founder of the musical dynasty, Jan JiriBenda, was born in 1686 in a village in Bohemia and combined thetrades of weaver and musician. He married Dorota Brixi, a member of the Skalskobranch of a distinguished family of Czech musicians, and five of their sixchildren became musicians, working in Germany. There the eldest son ofthe family, Frantisek, composer of some eighty violin sonatas and fifteenconcertos, entered the service of the Prussian Crown Prince, continuing as Konzertmeister after the latter's accession to the throneas Frederick the Great. Frantisek Benda was acolleague of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach in Potsdam, where both showeda certain originality in an otherwise musically conservative court, the formermore notably in his violin concertos. In 1742, two years after Frederick'saccession, the Benda family joined Frantisek in Potsdam. The second son,Jan Jiri Benda, had alsoentered the service of the Crown Prince as a viola-player, continuing hisservice at Potsdam
as a violinist, while the fourth, Joseph Benda,joined the Prussian royal orchestra in 1742 and later succeeded his eldestbrother as Konzertmeister. A daughter of the family,Anna, found a career for herself as Kamrnersangerinin the service of the Duke of Saxe-Gotha, on therecommendation of her brother Jiri Antonin. In Gotha she married the courtviolinist and composer Dismas Hatas.
Jiri Antonin Benda, known in German asGeorg Benda, was born in1722 at Stare Benatky andhad his schooling in Bohemia
before moving in1742 with the rest of his family to join his brother Frantisek at Potsdam, where he becamea violinist in the court orchestra. In 1750 he became Kapellmeister to Duke Friederich III of Saxe-Gotha. Gotha
had long and distinguished musical traditions, to which Bendacontributed, breaking new ground there with his Italian opera seria Xindo riconnosciuto, written for the Duchess Luise Dorothea. There followed a period in Italy forfurther study which resulted in the composition of two Intermezzi, Il buon marito and Il nuovo maestro di capella, performed in Gotha in 1766 and 1767. More significantly he was largelyresponsible for giving wide popularity to the form of melodrama. His early andvery successful attempts at the genre were written after the arrival in Gotha in 1774 of the theatricaltroupe directed by the Swiss actor Abel Seyler, acompany which had been active in Hanover and Weimar. For the Seyler troupe Benda wrote hismelodramas Ariadne auf Naxos, Medea and Pygmalion, the first two of which aroused the admiration of Mozart,who heard performances in Mannheim
and planned something of the same kind on the subject of Semiramide. Bendaalso wrote a series of Singspiel for the Gotha theatre.
Benda hadbeen given the title of Kapelldirektor in 1770, butresigned in 1778, moving to Hamburg
and to Vienna. Finding noposition there, he returned in 1779 to Gotha, living in retirement atfirst at the nearby Georgenthal before moving to Ohrdruf. He spent his final years at Kostritz,where he died in 1795. His compositions include some half dozen other stageworks, Singspiel, melodramas and a children's operetta, a quantity of churchmusic and vocal compositions, keyboard sonatas and sonatinasand some thirty symphonies, ten harpsichord concertos and eleven violinconcertos.
The twelvesymphonies, not published as a set, are all in three movements, developed fromthe Potsdam
style of the Graun brothers. The Sinfonia No. 1 in D major opens with characteristic panache, proceeding toa minor key slow movement, its theme punctuated by plucked notes. Any passingmelancholy is dissipated in a rapid final movement. The horns assume someimportance in the opening theme of the Sinjonia No. 2 in Gmajor, a lively movement that is followed by a moving minor key Andante. The horns return for the lastmovement with its recurrent refrain. An energetic opening theme marks theenergetic Allegro of the Sinfonia No. 3 in C major. There is again a minor keyslow movement dominated by the violin thematic material. The last movementbrings a return to the key of C major in a solidly rhythmic final Allegro. The Sinfonia No. 4 in F major summons attention in its first notes, followed bymusic of the expected brilliance and energy. A note of poignancy is added inthe minor key Andante, dispelled in the final Allegro. The Sinfonia No. 5 in G major has the expected vigorous opening, a call to theattention of