About this Recording
8.220360 - LACHNER: Symphony No. 1 / SPOHR: Symphony No. 2

Franz Lachner (1803-1890)
Symphony No. 1 in E Flat Major, Op. 32
Ludwig Spohr (1784-1859)
Symphony No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 49

Franz Lachner, in the course of a long life in music, was, as a young man, a friend of Schubert in Vienna. In later years he was involved less happily with Wagner in Munich, preparing the 1865 performance of The Flying Dutchman, before being forced into retirement.

Lachner was a member of a musical family, children of an organist and clock-maker in Rain am Lech, in Bavaria. His step-brother Theodor, born in 1798 was an organist and was to be employed as chorus-master at the Munich court theatre, while his sisters Thekla and Christiane were both organists. Franz Lachner's younger brothers, Ignaz, born in 1807, and Vinzenz, born in 1811, were also, in the first place, organists, the former going on to a busy career as a conductor and composer that took him from Vienna to Stuttgart, Munich, Hamburg, Stockholm and Frankfurt am Main, and the latter serving for 37 years as court Kapellmeister in Mannheim, where on one occasion he incurred the disapproval of Berlioz by substituting an extended trombone for an ophicleide in the Symphonie fantastique.

Franz Lachner, the most successful member of the family, became organist at the Lutheran church in Vienna in 1823, studying with Simon Sechter, a man who composed a fugue every day, the teacher of Bruckner. Lachner also took lessons from the Abbé Stadler, a leading scholar in the eyes of his contemporaries. In Vienna he was a close friend of Schubert and of the artist Moritz von Schwind and had made the acquaintance of Beethoven.

In 1829 Lachner became principal conductor at the Kärntnertor Theater in Vienna, where he had been assistant conductor since 1827. Seven years later, in 1836, he moved to Munich, where he became conductor of the court opera, after a short period in Mannheim. It was in Munich that he was to spend the greater part of his professional life, adding to his responsibilities at the opera the duties involved in conducting concerts of the Musikalische Akademie and Königliche Vokalkapelle.

Lachner's work in Munich was eminently successful. Under his guidance the proficiency of the orchestra and the opera developed, a result from which Wagner was to profit, when infatuation of the young Ludwig of Bavaria brought him to the city. In 1865, soon after Wagner's arrival, Lachner sought retirement. He died in Munich in 1890.

Moritz von Schwind made later sketches of Lachner in company with Schubert, Vogl, Bauernfeld and other friends in Vienna. It is from Lachner that we have the story of Schubert's inspiration for the last movement of the D minor Quartet, the principal theme derived from the sound of his antiquated coffee-mill – der Kopf sucht manchmal tag'lang nach einem Motiv, das die kleine Maschin' da in aner Sekund' find't. Hor amal! Lachner was to recall the matter fifty years later, remembering those early years in Vienna, the years to which his music rightly seems to belong.

The Symphony in E-flat, the first of eight, was completed in 1828. It illustrates Lachner's affinities with Spohr and the strong influence of Schubert. At the same time the instruction of Sechter in counterpoint bears obvious fruit, while one may suspect a touch of the popular Rossini in the finale.

Ludwig Spohr was a musician of wide sympathies, or perhaps, of little discrimination. A near contemporary of Weber, to whose music his compositions have a certain general stylistic resemblance, he was one of the first conductors to direct Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, his admiration for that composer in no way reciprocated, since Wagner was to describe Spohr's own opera Jessonda as an example of great, lengthy, pedantic, sentimental Spohr, an opinion in which later generations have more or less concurred, at least as far as Spohr's operas are concerned. His instrumental works, however, and some of his songs, have proved more enduring.

It was as a violinist that Spohr won an early reputation, enhanced after 1802 by lessons with J.G. Eck, of the Mannheim orchestra. The patronage of the Duke of Brunswick gave him a measure of security in the service of the court orchestra, followed by concert tours that brought him fame throughout Germany.

In 1805 Spohr became Konzertmeister at Gotha and during the following seven years he developed his technique as a violinist and acquired proficiency in the art of conducting, a duty that he was to undertake, unusually at the time, with a baton. In 1806 he married the harpist Dorette Scheidler and wrote a series of works involving the harp, including a group of sonatas for violin and harp for the couple's own use in these first years of marriage.

These years, and the years immediately following the appointment at Gotha, provided an opportunity for concert tours as well as conducting engagements. In 1822 he signed a contract for life with the opera in Kassel, his appointment recommended by Weber, who had refused the position. It was here that Spohr was to work until his retirement in 1857, at the same time enjoying freedom to travel for the purpose of conducting his own works, in particular his operas and oratorios, his reputation in England second only to that of Mendelssohn.

The Symphony No. 2 in D Minor was completed in 1820, after Spohr's resignation from the opera at Frankfurt am Main, where he had spent two years with some success. The second of nine completed symphonies, the work is classical in style, lacking the programmatic element that was to form part of his later symphonic idiom. The symphony was written in London and first performed at a concert of the Philharmonic Society on 10 April, an occasion on which, it was once thought, Spohr used the baton for the first time. In fact he had done so in earlier years in Germany, occasionally using a roll of paper or, as was usual, his violin bow. Nevertheless the use of a baton for the first performance of the Symphony in D Minor seems to have marked the beginning of a practice in London that English musicians initially regarded with some alarm, but were to accept happily enough in the interests of ensemble.

The four movements of the D Minor Symphony exemplify the sound craftsmanship that Spohr could command, coupled with a gift for melody, so well illustrated in the fifteen violin concertos that still form an important element in student repertoire.

Choo Hoey
Choo Hoey is a native of Singapore and was invited to establish the Singapore Orchestra after a career in Europe, where he had most recently served as Resident Conductor of the Athens State Orchestra, the Greek National Opera Orchestra and the Hellenic Radio and Television Orchestra.

Choo Hoey's début was in 1958, with the Belgian National Orchestra. He has appeared with many famous European orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre de la Société du Conservatoire and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.

Since 1979 Choo Hoey has been Resident Conductor and Music Director of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and has continued to appear in Europe as a guest conductor, as well as accepting invitations to conduct other orchestras in Asia, including the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the China Philharmonic in Beijing.

Singapore Symphony Orchestra
The Singapore Symphony Orchestra was set up, with the encouragement of the Singapore Government, in 1979. Under the direction of its Resident Conductor Choo Hoey it has grown in size, and now has a complement of some ninety musicians. While partly dependent on foreign players, a realistic long-term scheme sees to the training, in Singapore and abroad, of local players of the future.

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