Benda: Romeo und Julie

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COMPOSERS: Benda
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Romeo und Julie
PERFORMER: Christian M Immler, Heidrun Kordes, Claron McFadden; Vocal Ensemble of the Forum Alte Musik Bremen, La Stagione Frankfurt/Michael Schneider
CATALOGUE NO: 999 496-2
Georg Benda was the most important member of an 18th-century Bohemian musical dynasty. In 1750 he was appointed Konzertmeister

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at the court of Gotha, but chance circumstances provided an opportunity, in 1774, for him to

try his hand at dramatic music.

The melodramas Ariadne auf Naxos (1774) and Medea (1775) were

both highly successful, prompting Mozart to remark, in a letter to his father, ‘I love these works so much that I carry them with me’.

Romeo und Julie, though, is in the more operatic form of the

German Singspiel, in which the musical numbers – arias, duets and the occasional recitative – are interspersed with spoken dialogue.

Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter’s libretto is loosely based on Shakespeare’s play of the same

name and is very skilfully handled

by Benda. Many of the scenes

are through-composed, lyrical and well sustained, while the stylistic leanings and varied orchestration recall the operas of Hasse and

CH Graun. Michael Schneider

has not always shown flair in a theatrical context, but here he sustains a lively pace with a good

cast and an experienced ensemble

of period instruments.

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Nicholas Anderson