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 among 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 most well-known composition) given in Paris in 1888; Dante, played at the Opéra-Comique two years later; and La Vivandière, left unfinished and completed by another hand. This last work 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.
Godard's long list of works in other forms included 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 in many arrangements. He wrote four sonatas for violin and piano. One of these contains a scherzo written in the unusual time signature of 5/8. He wrote more than one hundred exquisite 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." His music has also been noted for its charm.
|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 1891, but 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|
There are at least 90 recordings available of Godard's music, including the following CD selected in 2008 by the classical music magazine Gramophone as an "Editor's Choice":
- Benjamin Godard: Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor (Concerto Romantique) and Scènes poétiques performed by Chloë Hanslip (violin) with the Kosice Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kirk Trevor (Naxos 8.570554)
The most recent recordings of music by Godard are the Piano Concerto No. 1, Introduction & Allegro and Symphonie Orientale performed by Victor Sangiorgio (piano) with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Martin Yates on Dutton Epoch CDLX 7274, released in 2011 and Piano Concerto No.2, Persian Fantasy, (again with Victor Sangiorgio and Martin Yates) Suites from Jocelyn and Overture Les Guelfes on Dutton Epoch, released in 2012.
- Concerto Romantique for Violin and Orchestra, op. 35. Orchestral accompaniment arranged for piano at Elibron
- Sadie, Stanley (Ed.) (1994) . The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. vol. 2, E-Lom, chpt: "Godard, Benjamin (Louis Paul)" by John Trevitt and Robert Orledge. New York: MacMillan. ISBN 0-935859-92-6.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Godard, Benjamin Louis Paul". Encyclopædia Britannica 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 170
- G. Schirmer has published two volumes of piano works by Godard (New York, 1895).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Benjamin Godard.|
- Free scores by Benjamin Godard at the International Music Score Library Project
- Benjamin Godard Piano Trio No.1 in g minor, Op.32--Sound-bites and discussion of work
- Piano trio no. 1, op. 32 (1872) From Sibley Music Library Digital Scores Collection
- Piano trio no. 2, op. 72, F major (1880) From Sibley Music Library Digital Scores Collection
- Symphonie gothique pour orchestre, op. 23 (1890) From Sibley Music Library Digital Scores Collection
- Troisième sonate pour piano & violon, op. 9 (1880) From Sibley Music Library Digital Scores Collection
- Fantasie persane : pour piano et orchestre ou 2 pianos, op. 152 (1900) From Sibley Music Library Digital Scores Collection