BENDA, the name of a family of German musicians, of whom the most important is Georg (d. 1795), who was a pupil of his elder brother Franz (1709-1786), Concertmeister in Berlin. Georg Benda was a famous clavier player and oboist, but his chief interest for modern musical history lies in his melodramas. Being a far more solid musician than Rousseau he earns the title of the musical pioneer of that art-form (i.e. the accompaniment of spoken words by illustrative music) in a sense which cannot be claimed for Rousseau's earlier Pygmalion. Benda's first melodrama, Ariadne auf Naxos, was written in 1774 after his return from a visit to Italy. He was a voluminous composer, whose works (instrumental and dramatic) were enthusiastically taken up by the aristocracy in the time of Mozart. Mozart's imagination was much fired by Benda's new vehicle for dramatic expression, and in 1778 he wrote to his father with the greatest enthusiasm about a project for composing a duodrama on the model of Benda's Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea, both of which he considered excellent and always carried about with him. He concluded at the time that that was the way the problems of operatic recitative should be solved, or rather shelved, but the only specimen he has himself produced is the wonderful melodrama in his unfinished operetta, Zaide, written in 1780.
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