Benjamin Godard isn’t a composer who immediately springs to mind compared to the likes of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Handel etc. However, when you look into this talented gentlemen he certainly wasn’t a one hit wonder! Influenced musically by the earlier generations such as Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin and Beethoven. Although, most certainly not by Robert Wagner whom he loathed due to his anti-semitism. Just before Godard’s death his music began to lose its popularity with the arrival of new innovative composers such as Ravel and Debussy.
Life and Career
Godard was a French Violinist of Jewish extraction best known for his opera. He wrote 5 symphonies, 2 piano concerto’s, 3 string quartets and 4 violin sonatas along with large amount of chamber music and songs. However, quantity doesn’t always mean quality and some critics said that maybe he should have concentrated more on less pieces. He worked incredibly hard and worked at his international profile and his desire to earn money. Sadly Godard like many of his fellow composers had a relatively short life of just 45 years. He died of tuberculosis in 1895.
Jocelyn, Godard’s most famous opera is set on four acts. It’s based on the poem by Alphonse de Lamartine; an earthy love which tempts a brother at a seminary. Its popularity has continued mostly due to “Berceuse” for tenor which has been recorded by many famous soloists. These include Count John McCormack, Lotte-Lehmann, Bing Crosby, Jussi Björling, Rita Streich and Plácido Domingo. I am sure you will know at least 1 of these singers dating back to 1914. Here’s one from Mr Crosby:- You can also listen to the music at music-scores.com or take a look at You Tube to view an arrangement on You Tube