Jirí Antonín Benda
Jiří Antonín Benda, also Georg Benda (30 June 1722 ? 6 November 1795) was a Czech kapellmeister, violinist and composer.
Born in Staré Benátky, Bohemia, he studied at the Piarist Gymnasium (grammar school) in Kosmonosy and at the Jesuit Gymnasium in Jičín from 1735 to 1742. Benda was 19 when Frederick II of Prussia bestowed upon him in 1741 the position of second violinist in the chapel of Berlin. The following year Benda was summoned to Potsdam as a composer and arranger for his older brother Franz, himself an illustrious composer and violinist. Seven years later, in 1749, he entered the service of the Duke of Gotha as chapel master, where he constantly cultivated his talents for composition, specializing in religious music.
A stipend from the Duke allowed him to take a study trip to Italy.
Benda had particular success with a form of musical stage entertainment, the melodrama, which influenced Mozart. The melodrama Ariadne auf Naxos is generally considered his best work. At its debut in 1775, the opera received enthusiastic reviews in Germany and afterwards, in the whole of Europe, with music critics calling attention to its originality, sweetness and ingenious execution. Besides that he wrote many instrumental pieces including a few sonatinas.
Benda died in Köstritz, Gotha at the age of 73, leaving his son, Friedrich Ludwig Benda (1752?1796), who briefly carried on the family musical tradition, serving as a music director in Hamburg and later in Mecklenburg, before finally becoming the Concertmaster in Königsberg. He died less than a year after his father.
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