This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
In the past I have written of several of the more famous classical families – J.S. Bach and his sons plus their extended family, Mozart's father and son, the brothers Joseph and Michael Haydn and some others.
What I have today are some families who aren't as well known as those. Quite a few of them, the majority really, are Czech composers.
I'll start with the Stamitz family. JOHANN STAMITZ was a major composer in the period between the baroque and classical periods. He’s the first of our Czech composers, born Jan Stamic.
Johann was the link between J.S. Bach and Mozart, and was contemporaneous with CPE Bach, the most famous son of the master - although he didn't live anywhere near as long CPE, but longer than Mozart, dying at age 39.
Jo was important in the development of the symphony. He created the four movement structure that is (mostly) the standard to this day. He also expanded the role of wind instruments.
Having said all that, I’m going to play the first movement of his Orchestral Trio in C minor, Op.4 No. 3.
Johann had two sons who became quite well known in their time as composers. He also had a daughter who didn’t go into the music biz. The elder, and better known, son was CARL STAMITZ.
Like his dad, Carl wrote a bunch of symphonies and concertos for various wind instruments. He travelled extensively but eventually tired of that and settled down in central Germany.
Alas, he fell on hard times and died in poverty. To hear what he can do with wind instruments, here is his Clarinet Quartet in A major Op14 No 6, the first movement.
Next son was ANTON STAMITZ.
Both brothers were taught violin by their dad, and that remained Ant’s main instrument. He went to Paris with his brother and he established himself there. Later, he played at Versailles. He spent the rest of his life in France, but little is known of what happened to him after the revolution.
He is thought to have died in 1809. Here is his Caprice No 1 in G.
Next we have father and son Hertel, the father being JOHANN CHRISTIAN HERTEL. Alas, no picture of him.
JCH’s dad was also a musician, a capellmeister in a couple of places. JCH taught himself to play the violin and later took lessons in various keyboards and viola da gamba. Although he was quite a prolific composer, much of his work has been lost or wasn’t published at all.
Something of his we do know is Sinfonia No. 1, for 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 violins, viola and continuo in D minor. Here is the third movement.
J.C.’s son was JOHANN WILHELM HERTEL.
JWH was a whiz on the harpsichord and often accompanied his dad when he toured. He was also pretty good on the violin, having learnt from Franz Benda (see below). In later life he mostly wrote music, and occasionally gave lessons.
One of his compositions is the Bassoon Concerto in E-flat major. This is the first movement. Bassoon players like him as there aren’t many works for the instrument.
The half-brothers Wranitzky came from Nová Říše in the Czech Republic. I'll stick with their more common spelling of their name and start with the elder, PAUL WRANITZKY (or Pavel Vranický).
He spent most of his life in Vienna where he became friendly with Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Indeed, he was so respected by them that both Haydn and Beethoven often chose Paul to conduct their new works. He composed the usual operas, symphonies, string quartets and the like.
Also concertos, of course, including the Cello Concerto in C Major. Op. 27. This is the second movement.
ANTON WRANITZKY (or Antonín Vranický) was Paul’s younger brother.
Ant was a highly regarded violinist and initially he’d travel between Prague and Vienna (and towns along the way). At the urging of Paul he finally settled in Vienna where he got to know the musical bigwigs as well.
His compositions were well thought of at the time and are still played today. His two daughters and two sons all became performers. This is the first movement of the String Sextet in G major.
We have yet another Czech family, this time it’s the Benda crew, starting with FRANZ BENDA (or František Benda).
Franz was considered the top violin player of his time and he wrote a number of books on the subject (as well as other books). He also spent some time as a composer for Frederick the Great, which means that he wrote a bunch of music for the flute as old Fred had a penchant for the instument. One of those is the Flute Concerto in E Minor, the first movement.
Franz’s younger brother was GEORG ANTON BENDA (or Jiří Antonín Benda).
Like his big brother he played in Fred’s band, in his case as a violinist. He later skipped around Germany and Austria performing and composing. One of the things he wrote was the Symphony No. 3 in C Major. This is the first movement.
To continue the family tradition, it is played by the Prague Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christian Benda, a direct descendant of Franz.
Franz had a daughter who followed her dad into the composing trade. Her name was JULIANE REICHARDT.
Juliane was living with the family in Potsdam where dad was playing in Fred’s band. Also playing was Johann Reichardt whom she married. Juliane was an excellent singer, pianist and composer.
One of her compositions is the Sonata in G major, the second movement. It’s played on a fortepiano, the forerunner of the modern piano.
The Reichardts had two kids, the second of whom was LOUISE REICHARDT (or Luise, both spellings seem to be in common use).
Louise wrote songs and choral music. She was also a conductor of her works but not in public as the powers that be didn’t allow that sort of thing. She tried to marry twice but both times the husband-to-be died shortly before the wedding. Hmm.
One of Louise’s vocal works is Unruhiger Schlaf. It is sung by soprano Susan Owen-Leinert.
The Benda line continues to the present day. In the Czech Republic, Christian Benda is a conductor and his brother Georg Benda a classical pianist. They are descended from the original Franz Benda.