... czech and slovak music guide ...

Jiri Antonin Benda

born: 1722-06-30
died: 1795-11-06
birthplace: Stare Benatky
diedplace: Kostric

Remarkable Czech composer of the early classical period, younger brother of Frantisek Benda. He studied at the piaristic college in Kosmonosy and jesuit college in Jicin. He got the basic musical education there as well as the knowledge of speech and proper declamation which influenced his musical scope. In 1742 he left to Berlin where he joined his brother in the court orchestra of king Friedrich IInd (who helped him to move from Bohemia to Prussia). In 1750 he entered the service for the Thuringer Duke Friedrich IIIrd in Gotha. The duke sent him to a study tour to Italy in 1765. Benda met here the modern opera top works and composers (Gluck,Paisiello, Piccini, Traetta). His works from that times were influenced by Italian opera style. Another source of inspiration for him (mostly in harpsichord works) was Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach with whom he maintained friendly relation. In 1770 he got the position of the bandmaster. At that time, he was intensively searching new scenic forms and ways of joining spoken word and music, inspired by the atmosphere of enlightenment and new literary styles (Sturm und Drang literary movement heaed by J.W.Goethe). Benda staid in Gotha till 1778 when he applied for the position of the bandmaster at the court in Vienna. He lost the competition to one generation younger Czech musician Pavel Vranicky; annoyed, he finished his musical career. He returned to Thuringia where he got retired, reading and studying philosophy. Among other activities, he was also member of the Masonic Lodge.
   Benda was the founder of the Melodram form. His first two works Ariadne of Naxos and Medeia are the first real representatives of the new form. The idea of changing music and spoken word came from J.J.Rousseau but Benda was the one who brought it into life.
Benda was highly appreciated by a lot of prominent personalities. W.A.Mozart loved his first two melodrams so much that he always took the sheets with him. Ariadne of Naxos was also fancied by F. Schiller.

  • melodrams: Ariadne at Naxos (1774), Medea (1775), Pygmalion (1779) etc
  • singspiels: Vesnicky trh (1775), Romeo a Julie (1776) etc
  • 30 symfonies
  • concerts (harpsichord, piano etc.)
  • over 100 cantatas
  • operas
  • chamber compositions
  • piano and harpsichord sonatas
  • scenic music (Macbeth)


Mala encyklopedie hudby (book by dr. Jar. Smolka; &kolektiv, Supraphon 1983)
Booklet of the CD Jiri Antonin Benda: Harpsichord Sonatas (Supraphon 2003, notes by Vit Roubicek)


Sonata in C major (MP3) (II. Andante un poco vivace, Tamara Franzova harpsichord, CD Harpsichord Sonatas, Supraphon 2003)
Symphony for violin orchestra B Flat Major (MP3) (I. Moderato, rec. by Czech Philharomonic Orchestra, cond. by V.Talich, CD Vaclav Talich, Supraphon 2007)
Ariadne at Naxos (MP3) (Prague Chamber Orchestra/Christian Benda, CD Benda:Melodramas, Naxos 1996)


Last update 2012-07-03