Benjamin Godard

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Benjamin Godard, c. 1880, Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Benjamin Louis Paul Godard (18 August 1849 – 10 January 1895) was a French violinist and Romantic-era composer of Jewish extraction (see Hyperion records site at http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/al.asp?al=CDA66888). Godard has composed six operas, five symphonies, a piano and two violin concertos, string quartets, sonatas for violin and piano, piano pieces and etudes, and more than a hundred songs. He died at the age of 45 in Cannes (Alpes-Maritimes) with tuberculosis and was buried in the family tomb in Taverny in the French department of Val-d'Oise

Life and career[edit]

Plaster bust of Benjamin Godard by Ernest-Charles Diosi.

Godard was born in Paris in 1849. He entered the Conservatoire de Paris in 1863 where he studied under Henri Vieuxtemps (violin) and Napoléon Henri Reber (harmony) and accompanied Vieuxtemps twice to Germany.

In 1876, his Concerto romantique was performed at the Concerts Populaires, and other of his large works were also performed at these concerts. In 1878, Godard was the co-winner of the Prix de la Ville de Paris. His winning composition, a dramatic symphony entitled Le Tasso, remains one of his most admired works.

From that time until his death Godard wrote a large number of compositions. These include eight operas, among them: Jocelyn (the "Berceuse" from which remains Godard's best-known composition), performed in Paris in 1888; Dante, played at the Opéra-Comique two years later; and La Vivandière, left unfinished and completed by Paul Vidal (1863–1931). The last of these was heard at the Opéra-Comique in 1895, and has been played in England by the Carl Rosa Opera Company.

He became a professor at the Conservatoire de Paris in 1887, and was made a Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur in 1889.

Works[edit]

Godard's long list of works in other forms includes three symphonies: Symphonie gothique (1883), Symphonie orientale (1884), and Symphonie légendaire (1886); Concerto romantique for violin and orchestra (1876), two piano concertos, three string quartets, four sonatas for violin and piano, a sonata for cello and piano, two piano trios, and various other orchestral works. Among his piano pieces may be mentioned the 2nd Mazurka, the 2nd Valse, Au Matin, Postillon, En Courant, En Train, and Les Hirondelles. Florian's Song is also very popular and has been arranged for many instruments. One of Godard's sonatas for violin and piano contains a scherzo written in the unusual time signature of 5/8. He wrote more than 100 songs.

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, "Godard's compositions are unequal, if only because his productivity was enormous. He was at his best in works of smaller dimensions. Among his more ambitious works, the Symphonie légendaire may be singled out as being one of the most distinctive."[1]

Godard was opposed to the music of Richard Wagner and also highly critical of Wagner's antisemitism. Godard's musical style was more in tune with those of Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann.

Godard died in Cannes from tuberculosis in 1895, aged 45, and was buried at the family plot in Taverny.

Operas[edit]

Op. Title Genre Sub­divisions Libretto Première date Place, theatre Notes
bijouxLes bijoux de Jeannette opéra 1878-00-001878 Paris
GuelfesLes Guelfes grand opéra 5 acts GalletL. Gallet 1902-01-1717 January 1902 Rouen, Théâtre des Arts composed 1880–82
Pedro de Zalamea opéra 4 acts DetroyatL. Détroyat & Paul Armand Silvestre, after Pedro Calderón de la Barca 1884-01-3131 January 1884 Antwerp, Théâtre Royal
100 Jocelyn opéra 4 acts SilvestrePaul Armand Silvestre and Victor Capoul, after a poem by Alphonse de Lamartine 1888-02-2525 February 1888 Brussels, Théâtre de la Monnaie
111 Dante drame lyrique 4 acts BlauE. Blau 1890-05-1313 May 1890 Paris, Opéra-Comique (Favart)
125 Jeanne d'Arc drame historique 5 acts FabreJ. Fabre 1891-01-1313 January 1891 Paris, Théâtre du Châtelet
Ruy Blas 1891-99-00 composed in 1891; unperformed
vivandiereLa vivandière opéra comique 3 acts CaïnHenri Caïn 1893-03-21 incomplete score: 21 March 1893 Brussels, Théâtre de la Monnaie with orchestration completed by P. A. Vidal, 1 April 1895, Paris, Salle Favart

References[edit]

  1. ^ Public Domain Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Godard, Benjamin Louis Paul". Encyclopædia Britannica 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 170. 

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