The Bendas were, indeed still are, one of the great dynasties of Czech music. The founding father was Jan Jin Benda, a linen weaver and village musician who married a member of another such dynasty, the Brixi family. This union produced, among their ten offspring, Frantisek in 1709 and Jin Antonm in 1722. These two are better known to musical history as Franz, a composer and violinist at the court in Potsdam of Frederick the Great, and Georg Anton, who worked chiefly as a Kapellmeister at Gotha and was a pioneer of the melodrama (Mozart wrote of him: ‘of all the Lutheran Kapellmeisters, Benda has always been my favourite’). Their descendants are still active in German musical life.
These two were born in what was then Stare Benatky, now Benatky nad Jizerou, some 40 km north-west of Prague. The house of their birth, close to the church, was demolished in the 1930s, but the plaque put up in 1926 is now on the house that replaces it. Their place of work while they remained in Benatky was the castle, up on the hill, which is now the local museum.
Mestske Muzeum Benatky nad Jizerou Photo Gallery
Since 1998 a room on the second floor has been devoted to a display dedicated to the two brothers (a neighbouring room is given over to Smetana, who worked there too: see Smetana).
Inevitably, most of the material is loaned from Prague collections. The nine showcases give some picture of the two men and their lives, with early editions, engravings, photographs (among them one of Georg’s house in Gotha), modern editions, documents and maps. Something of the activities of other family members, including recent and living ones, is included. There are also various instruments, of no specific relevance to the Bendas but perhaps a useful garnish for educational purposes.
Franz Benda died in Potsdam in 1786, and Georg in Bad Kostritz, near Dresden, in 1795; there is a small commemoration of him in the Schutz museum there (see Schutz).
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