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8.223195 - LACHNER: Suites No. 1, Op. 113 and No. 7, Op. 190
Franz Paul Lachner
Franz Lachner was born at Rain am Lech in Upper Bavaria in 1803, the son of an organist and clock-maker whose other children also became musicians. His step-brother Theodor, born in 1788, was court organist in Munich and a composer of Lieder, part-songs and choral works. Two sisters, Thekla and Christiane, were organists, while Ignaz, born in 1807, a pupil of his brother Franz, had a long and busy career as a composer and conductor, for the fourteen years up to his retirement in 1875 as principal conductor in Frankfurt am Main. A younger brother, Vinzenz, born in 1811, was also a conductor, serving for a time as Kapellmeister at the Kärntnerthor Theater in Vienna and in Mannheim. The four brothers enjoyed considerable longevity. Theodor died in 1877 at the age of 89, Franz in 1890 at the age of 86, Ignaz in 1895 at the age of 87 and Vinzenz in 1893 at the age of 82. In a remarkable way the Lachners link the age of Beethoven and Schubert to that of Liszt and Wagner.
Franz Lachner was taught at first by his father, and at his father's death in 1822 moved to Munich, where he earned a living for himself as best he could as a teacher and organist. The following year he became organist of the Lutheran church in Vienna. Soon after his arrival in the city he met Schubert, an encounter he recalled in old age. The two would take frequent long walks together and there were convivial gatherings at the Inn zum Stern with other members of Schubert's circle, of which he became an intimate member. At the same time he continued his musical training with lessons from the court organist Simon Sechter, with whom Schubert began lessons shortly before his death in 1828. Sechter, a remarkably prolific composer with some 8000 compositions to his credit by the time of his death in 1833, had a considerable academic reputation and counted Bruckner among his many pupils. He is reputed to have written a fugue every day, but it must be principally as a teacher that he is remembered. Lachner was also able to take lessons from the learned Abbé Stadler, Sechter's patron. In 1827 he was appointed assistant Kapellmeister at the Kärntnerthor Theater and two years later Kapellmeister, a position later held by his brother Vinzenz. He was responsible for the first regular series of professional subscription concerts in Vienna, using the theatre orchestra, but the attempt proved premature.
In 1836 Lachner moved back to Munich, where he won a position of considerable importance, serving as conductor at the court opera and directing the royal Vokalkapelle and the concerts of the Musikalische Akademie. In 1848 he provided Bavaria with its national anthem, Bayern, o Heimatland, and his very successful career in Munich only came to an end with the arrival of Wagner in 1864, when he was forced into reluctant retirement by the royal favourite and his supporters. Wagner's reign was transitory, and Lachner retained an honoured position in the city, where he died in 1890.
In 1881 Lachner published his memoirs of Schubert. Twenty years earlier, in 1862, when Lachner was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Munich, the artist Moritz Schwind, another member of Schubert's circle, had honoured Lachner with his water-colour sketches, the so-called Lachnerrolle, recalling escapades in which they had taken part as young men in Vienna. One of the sketches shows Lachner, Schubert and the writer Eduard von Bauernfeld drinking at an inn at Grinzing, and another the occasion when Lachner and Schubert, with Schwind and the singer Vogl, returning home late at night, serenaded at the tops of their voices the future inhabitants of a building then in course of construction. It is tempting to hear in Lachner's later music something of what his friend Schubert might have written, had he lived to complete his counterpoint lessons with Sechter and to continue his career into a later age. Lachner was obviously out of sympathy with Wagner, whose Flying Dutchman he rehearsed for the composer to direct in Munich shortly before he was supplanted as Kapellmeister, although he always behaved with generosity towards him. Liszt too represented a quite different trend in music and castigated Lachner's opera Catarina Cornaro, which won contemporary success, as a work of thundering philistinism.
The first of Lachner's seven orchestral suites was written in 1861. It is in the key of D minor and consists of four movements. The first of these, a Präludium, classical in its clarity, develops from the musical figure with which it opens, with a due use of counterpoint. This is followed by a Minuet and a contrasting Trio, the latter based on a repeated bass pattern. The third movement is in the form of a theme and variations, succeeded by a march. The melody itself, solemnly announced at the outset, leads to a first contrapuntal variation, to which further instrumental parts are added as the variations grow in intensity and complexity, allowing contrasts in character and timbre. There are versions of Baroque suggestion, as bass adds counterpoint to treble, and treble to bass, a variation that makes winning use of a solo violin, and a variation with all the light dexterity of Mendelssohn. The variations are crafted with great skill, creating music that is allusive in its reference to various styles, with subtle transformations of the original theme, which appears in many guises, before the appearance of the final march. The last movement starts with a slow introduction, leading to a final fugue, forming a conclusion of traditional strength.
The seventh suite, again in the key of D minor, enjoyed considerable and continued success. It was written in 1881. The suite opens with a dramatic Ouverture, dominated by melodies of clear operatic character. A scherzo follows, a dance movement, with a Ländler-style Trio contrasted in mood and instrumentation. The third movement Intermezzo is a gently lyrical slow movement, showing again the technical assurance that had won the early approval of Schumann. The last movement Chaconne opens ominously, making solemn use of the old Baroque dance-variation form, which leads to a final fugue, a form that brings its own inevitable climax, a reminder that Lachner had learned his lesson from Sechter well.
For the Marco Polo label Gunzenhauser recorded symphonies by Glière, Taneyev, Rubinstein and Bloch, as well as works by Liadov and Borodin.
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