A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Benedict, Julius

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1502775A Dictionary of Music and Musicians — Benedict, JuliusHenry Sutherland Edwards

BENEDICT, Sir Julius, born at Stuttgart, Nov. 27, 1804. Sir Julius is one of the most eminent of the numerous foreign musicians who have settled in England since Handel's time. Aa composer, performer, and teacher of music, he has now held an exceptionally high position in this country for upwards of forty years. After studying under Hummel, at Weimar—during which he saw Beethoven (March 8, 1827)—he was, in his 17th year, presented by the illustrious pianist to Weber, who received him into his house, and from the beginning of 1821 until the end of 1824, treated him, in Sir Julius's own words, 'not only as a pupil, but as a son.' At the age of nineteen young Benedict was, on Weber's recommendation, appointed to conduct a series of operatic performances at Vienna. [App. p.543 "Add that in early life he studied with J. C. L. Abeille, and that his appointment at Vienna was that of conductor at the Kärnthnerthor Theatre, which he held from 1823 to 1825."] A few years afterwards we find him as chef d'orchestre at the San Carlo at Naples, where he produced his first opera, 'Giacinta ed Ernesto'—a work which seems to have been too German for the Neapolitan taste. On the other hand, 'I Portoghesi in Goa,' which Benedict composed in 1830 for Stuttgart, may have been found too Italian for the Germans; since, unsuccessful in the city for which it was specially written, it was warmly received by the operatic public of Naples. The youthful maestro, who showed himself a German among the Italians, and an Italian among the Germans, went in 1835 to Paris, at that time the head-quarters of Rossini and Meyerbeer, a frequent place of rendezvous for Donizetti and Bellini, and the home of Auber, Hérold, and Adolphe Adam, of Halévy, Berlioz, and Félicien David. At Paris Benedict made the acquaintance of Malibran, who suggested his visiting London; and from 1835 until now we have had Weber's favourite pupil residing permanently among us. In 1836 Benedict was appointed to the musical direction of the Opera Buffa, started by the late John Mitchell at the Lyceum Theatre. Here he brought out with success a little work called 'Un Anno ed un Giorno,' originally given in 1836 at Naples. In 1838 he produced his first English opera, 'The Gypsy's Warning'—known in the present day to those who are not acquainted with it as a whole by the very dramatic air for the bass voice, 'Rage thou angry storm.' Benedict was engaged at Drury Lane Theatre as orchestral conductor throughout that period of Mr. Bunn's management, during which Balfe's most successful operas ('The Bohemian Girl,' 'The Daughter of St. Mark,' 'The Enchantress,' 'The Bondman,' etc.) were brought out. To this period too belong Sir Julius Benedict's finest operas, 'The Brides of Venice' and 'The Crusaders,' both produced at Drury Lane under the composer's immediate direction. In 1850 Benedict accompanied Jenny Lind to the United States, and directed the whole [App. p.543 "most"] of the concerts given by the 'Swedish Nightingale,' with such unexampled success, during her famous American tour. On his return to England [App. p.543 "1852"] he accepted an engagement as musical conductor at Her Majesty's Theatre, and afterwards at Drury Lane, whither Mr. Mapleson's establishment was for a time transferred. [App. p.543 "In the same year he was appointed conductor of the Harmonic Union."] When in 1860 Mr. Mapleson was about to produce (at Her Majesty's Theatre) an Italian version of Oberon,' he naturally turned to the composer who, above all others, possessed the secret of Weber's style, and requested him to supply the recitatives wanting in the 'Oberon' composed for the English stage, but absolutely necessary for the work in Italianised form. Benedict added recitatives which may now be looked upon as belonging inseparably to the Italian 'Oberon.' Eighteen hundred and sixty was also the year of Benedict's beautiful cantata on the subject of 'Undine'—produced at the Norwich Festival—in which Clara Novello made her last public appearance. In 1862, soon after the remarkable success of Mr. Dion Boucicault's 'Colleen Bawn,' Benedict brought out 'The Lily of Killarney,' for which Mr. Oxenford (probably in collaboration with Mr. Boucicault) had furnished the excellent libretto. In 1863 he composed the cantata of 'Richard Cœur de Lion,' for the Norwich Festival of that year. His operetta the 'Bride of Song' was given at Covent Garden in 1864; his oratorio of 'St. Cecilia,' at the Norwich Festival in 1866; that of 'St. Peter,' at the Birmingham Festival of 1870. As 'conductor' at chamber-concerts, where the duties of the musician so entitled consist in accompanying singers on the pianoforte, and in seeing generally that nothing goes wrong, Benedict has come at least as often before the public as in his character of orchestral chief. With rare interruptions he has officiated as conductor at the Monday Popular Concerts since they first started, now some sixteen years ago. His own annual concert has been looked upon for the last forty years at least as one of the great festivals of the musical season. There is no form of music which this versatile composer has not cultivated; and though more prolific masters may have lived, it would be difficult to name one who has laboured with success in so many different styles. In 1873 a symphony by the now veteran composer was performed for the first time at the Crystal Palace; and a second in the following year; so that a complete edition of Benedict's works would include, besides ballads and pianoforte fantasias, operas, oratorios, and cantatas, compositions in the highest form of orchestral music. Sir Julius received the honour of knighthood in 1871. On the occasion of his seventieth birthday he was named Knight Commander of the orders of Francis and Joseph (Austria), and of Frederic (Wurtemberg). It was determined in the same year, by his numerous English friends, to offer him a testimonial 'in appreciation of his labours during forty years for the advancement of art, and as a token of their esteem.' In accordance with this resolution a service of silver, including a magnificent group of candelabra, was presented to Sir Julius, the following summer, at Dudley House, before a number of the most distinguished musicians and amateurs in London. Besides being a member of the before-mentioned Austrian and Wurtemburgian orders, Sir Julius Benedict has been decorated by the Sovereigns of Prussia, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Portugal, and Hanover. [App. p.543 "Add to his works the cantata 'Graziella,' written for the Birmingham Festival of 1882 (originally intended for the Norwich Festival of 1881, but not completed in time), which was subsequently produced as an opera at the Crystal Palace. He died at his residence, 2 Manchester Square, on June 5, 1885, and was buried at Kensal Green on the 11th. (Dict. of Nat. Biog., etc.)"]