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Frantisek Benda

violin concertos & sonatas

Violin concertos in B flat major, C major, A minor, & D major

Ivan Ženatý – violin/Prague Philharmonia

Supraphon SU 4064-2

This release (and the Sonatas reviewed previously, below) are significant additions to the repertoire for today's violinists.

The most distinguished Czech violinist of the 18th century was arguably František Benda. At the beginning of the 21st century, Ivan Ženatý is among Czech violinists a serious candidate for the title Benda would have been awarded in the 18th century.

These examples of some twenty concertos are fresh and above all melodic - "abounding in invention, naturally flowing and extremely forcible melody".

Ženatý leads a small section of the Prague Philharmonia from his Guarneri 'del Gesu', with warmth and infectious vitality, yet without straining for effect with over-emphasis, which is a feature of some of today's baroque set-ups.

A loveable disc, perfectly recorded, 2011/2012 and newly released. Not to be missed.


Violin Sonatas in F minor Lee III:73, E flat Lee III:41, C minor Lee III:9, E Lee III:50, F Lee III:63

Hans-Joachim Berg (violin) Naoko Akutagawa (harpsichord)

NAXOS 8.572307 [72:29]

Franz Benda (1709-1786) composed some 150 violin sonatas, catalogued by Douglas Lee, and these come from 34 of them which contain Benda's own written-out violin ornamentations. That gives this first recording of five of them (on an original violin of the time) an important insight into Benda's own playing style.

Extremely fluent baroqe playing style avoids any longuers with the repeats, and first class recording in Germany makes for a delectable release. However, it should be said that the similarities between them suggest that another 145 or so more might be too many...

A page or two of facsimile manuscripts on the Naxos website would make this CD far more enjoyable, and might well have been offered by one those innovative labels which have begun to pack a vast amount of information as extras one way or another:

(c.f. Morehead on Navona Records with "Navona Enhanced Content" to download and back up a slender box; a formidable catalogue of "extras" to see on your computer, with the full notes including all personell etc, all the scores organised to turn the pages whilst listening - all that requiring some expertise to access.

Most of it is to be found in in "Goodnews.osx". It took me some time, with assistance, to access it all, but it was worth it."

Whatever, the disc is to be enthusiastically recommended, especially to all baroque violin students.

Peter Grahame Woolf