> BENDA violin and viola concertos [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Jiri Antonin BENDA (1722-1795)

Viola Concerto in F Major
Benda’s Klagen adapted for cello by Christian Benda +
Frantisek BENDA (1709-1786)

Violin Concerto in E Flat Major
Josef Suk, viola
Ariane Pfister, violin
Christian Benda, cello +
Suk Chamber Orchestra
Prague Chamber Orchestra +
Christian Benda
Recorded Lichtensteinpalast, Prague January 1999 except Benda’s Klagen, recorded at the Chapel of Brethren, Prague November 1994
NAXOS 8.553994 [53’24]


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Another in the long line of outstanding Bohemian musical families the Bendas were similarly part of the diaspora that saw them moving across the continent in search of court and church appointments to further their careers. The Catholic Frantisek thus acquired a new religion as well as a new name becoming the Protestant Franz Benda. He served in Vienna, Warsaw and Dresden in a rapid space of time before following the Prussian Crown Prince, now King, to Potsdam where he was to remain for the rest of his life, having finally succeeded the court favourite and violinist-Konzertmeister Carl Gottlieb Graun. A prolific composer his Violin Concerto in E Flat Major is provisionally dated to 1760. It’s a clear-cut, spruce and attractive work, cut from very obviously Classical cloth with an undemandingly pleasant first movement and a slow movement which has the feeling of an operatic aria. It has an expressive freedom and a delicacy which never needs to sink to the affecting depths and instead offers songful regret. The finale is conjecturally noted as being influenced by CPE Bach, Benda’s Potsdam colleague and is a slight disappointment in its rather timid gestural way.

Jiri Antonin (or Georg Anton as he was to become) joined the royal court in 1742 but left for Saxe-Gotha in 1750 (another brother, Johann Georg, had also joined the Prussian Court but moved to Berlin where he was die in 1752). Jiri Antonin’s Melodramas were famously to impress Mozart. The Viola Concerto was written in about 1775 and is a splendid and attractive work in three movements. The first is full of double stopping and a cadenza; the performance by Josef Suk observes dynamics with scrupulous skill and the solo and orchestral tuttis are differentiated with unerring tact. The slow movement is notable for the exceptional length of the soloist’s opening phrase that emerges somewhat pensive, unsure and apparently directionless. It soon though becomes one of almost operatic depth, an aria, as the notes rightly note – and one whose vocal impetus includes generous pauses into the musical argument. Suk’s tone is nut brown here and coloured with generous amplitude throughout the range. The finale is confident, elegant and attractive. Benda’s Klagen (or Laments) was written towards the end of his life in 1792 – in fact it’s probably his last work. Originally written as a cantata for soprano with a text musing on the passing of time and beauties of music it has been arranged for cello by soloist and conductor Christian Benda (the cadenza in the Viola Concerto was incidentally written by yet another Benda – Lola). The fleeting moods are well caught in this performance which seeks to smooth over the work’s occasional sectionality. Affectingly and sensitively done.

This is the second in Naxos’ Benda series – the first was devoted to Jan Jiri’s G Major Violin Concerto and Frantisek’s D Major and D Minor, where the excellent soloists were once more Suk and Ariane Pfister. I enjoyed it immensely – especially the Viola Concerto. Soloists who always play the Telemann – please note.

Jonathan Woolf
Affectingly and sensitively done. … see Full Review

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