GEORG BENDA (d 1795 )
Jiří Antonín Benda won particular distinction as a composer of melodramas: dramatic works that accompany speech with music. After earlier employment with his brothers in Prussia, in 1750 he became Kapellmeister to Duke Friedrich II of Saxe-Gotha. His career thereafter centred largely on Gotha, with shorter periods in Vienna and in Hamburg.
The melodrama owed much to Benda and it was his work that had a lasting influence on opera. Particularly successful are his melodramas on the subject of Ariadne, the Cretan princess abandoned by her lover Theseus on Naxos, and on the subjects of Medea and Pygmalion.
Jiří Antonín Benda’s instrumental compositions include sonatas for violin and for flute, as well as for harpsichord.
Benda left a varied quantity of orchestral and instrumental music, including around 30 symphonies which seem to have enjoyed some popularity in his day. They are attractive examples of the style of the period. He also left 11 violin concertos, and there is a Viola Concerto attributed to him.
In addition to his operas and Singspiel, Benda also wrote sacred and secular vocal music, with songs to Italian and German texts. Bendas Klagen, for soprano and orchestra, is a final lament that he composed towards the end of his life.