Friday, June 24, 2016

Musical Family Fingerprints and Marginalia

Yesterday I went through a pile of music that my father gave to me. Most of it was viola d'amore music, but there was also music for a Concerto by Benda that I remember my father practicing when I was a teenager.

The Benda family was full of musicians and composers, and in 1968, the year the F-major Viola Concerto was published by Schott, the prevailing wisdom was that this Viola Concerto was by Georg Benda. The IMSLP doesn't have a listing for any of Georg's viola music (even under his Bohemian name of Jirí Antonin Benda), so, on a lark I looked at the pages for the other members of the Benda Family. It turns out that Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Benda (son of Georg's famous and prolific brother Franz who worked for Frederic the Great) was the Benda that wrote the viola concertos.

Ah, but the plot thickens.

I played through some excellent cadenzas that my father wrote for the F Major Concerto, and thought that it would be nice to share them on the IMSLP. I put them into Finale, and noticed that my brother Marshall had also written cadenzas for the same concerto. I also noticed that he essentially copied almost note-for-note the first nine measures of my father's cadenza for the first movement, and the first two measures of his cadenza for the second movement. After his "borrowings" from my father, he then jumps into the stratosphere of the viola's A string and proceeds to make his cadenza a technical tour de force. He must have used the same music I was using, because it was 1984 and Benda family scholarship of the time hadn't separated the music by Friedrich Wilhelm from that of his uncle Georg.

You can find both cadenzas on this page of the IMSLP.

On another note, there is a bit of marginalia inscribed on the first page of my father's music:

27 Salome
28 Rigoletto

I pondered this for a while, and then I remembered that in February of 1973, when I was 13, my father took me to New York to see an opera at the Met. I vividly remember my father telling me the story of Salome (which I found extremely creepy) and Rigoletto (which I also found creepy, but perhaps a little less creepy than Salome), and asking which opera I would like to see. I chose Rigoletto.

We took the train to New York, and it was so crowded that I remember standing up for some of the ride. I seem to remember the transporting of a cello involved in the trip to New York. I remember watching the opera, and I remember not understanding much about what was going on (it was in Italian and I was a teenager). I remember the bright blue dress that Guilda wore, and I remember the darkness of the set. I remember what I was wearing too.

We took the train back to Boston. When we arrived at the Route 128 Amtrak station late at night and in the snow, we found that someone had stolen the drive shaft from the car. A very nice lady with a Volkswagen Beetle packed us into her car and drove us home.

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