Eberwein/Benda

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COMPOSERS: Eberwein/Benda
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm
WORKS: Proserpina
PERFORMER: Salome Kammer, Dirk SchortemeierWuppertal SO/Peter Gülke
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 335 0740-2
Georg Benda was the first successful composer of melodramas, and Ariadne auf Naxos (1774) his first work of a kind much admired by Mozart. ‘You know that it involves not singing but declamation,’ Mozart wrote to his father in 1778, ‘and the music is like an obbligato recitative; sometimes there is speaking under the music, too, which then has the most splendid effect. What I saw was the Medea of Benda, [but] he has made another, too, Ariadne auf Naxos, both truly outstanding. I love these works so much that I carry them with me.’

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If Benda’s name is only infrequently encountered today, that of Carl Eberwein is all but forgotten. He was a younger contemporary of Weber, who became music director at Goethe’s house in Weimar, in 1807. The performance of Benda’s Ariadne, as Mozart’s report suggests, aroused much excitement and led Goethe and others to experiment with a novel theatrical form. The text of the monodrama Proserpina is Goethe’s work and was performed as part of his comedy Der Triumph der Empfindsamkeit. Proserpina’s monologue, illustrated and punctuated by Eberwein’s atmospheric score, indebted above all to Weber, but also to Benda, is a colourful effusion of sensibility. Textual classical images abound in both works, but German linguists will undoubtedly find more subtlety in the form than others. Translations are provided, however, and the performances are theatrical and entertaining. Nicholas Anderson