Notes & Reviews:
"When Franz Benda [...] plays an Adagio, one has the impression that eternal wisdom is speaking down to us from heaven." Thus the description, written in 1798, by violinist Johann Peter Salomon - a pupil of Benda's and a good friend of Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven - of the playing of the "magician", the "great genius". His interpretation was in a singing, unpretentious, and obviously very touching style, whereby, in accordance with the custom of the time, he always richly ornamented the violin part. The works on this recording were selected from a unique manuscript collection preserved in the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin. What makes it a rarity are the written-out ornaments, for all of the movements, even the quick ones, are complemented by one or, in some cases, even two ornamented versions on separate staves. Even if this Berlin manuscript does not stem from Benda's own hand, there is much to indicate that it is a very careful and, in terms of ornamentation technique, authentic version. For this new release in Glossa's Schola Cantorum Basiliensis series, the Swiss violinist Leila Schayegh (the successor, together with Amandine Beyer, of Chiara Banchini at the SCB) and her continuo partners Václav Luks and Felix Knecht recover a selection of Benda's beautiful, ornamented sonatas, of course including some of those legendary Adagios mentioned by Salomon.
Fanfare Magazine - Robert Maxham
For those interested in exploring Benda's work, in this native environment, Schayegh's collection should provide a heady enough brew as an introduction, and because of the lack of significant overlap, should stand alongside Berg's collection, their differences complementing each other in creating a richer understanding of the composer's aim of creating a sweetly melodic repast, richly glazed. Highly recommended.
American Record Guide, July / August 2012
This is music that was clearly written to impress, and is florid almost to the point of excess; but it is the affected and downright quirky nature of the music that makes it interesting. There is only one sonata (the 23rd) that appears on both this and the Berg-Akutagawa Benda recording on Naxos (M/J 2012). Schayegh and Luks use fortepiano for this sonata, while Berg and Akutagawa use harpsichord. I find Berg more reserved than Schayegh, but the readings are remarkably similar in style, and show us what the violin playing was like at Frederic the Great's court.
Gramophone Magazine, May 2012
Leila Schayegh plays her Guarneri violin (Cremona, 1675) with an astounding mastery over technical execution that never eclipses sincere feeling. Continuo support from Felix Knecht and Vaclav Luks is alert or thoughtful according to the demands of the musical mood.
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