Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lachner - Symphony No. 8 In G Minor

Franz Lachner's life spanned almost  the entire 19th century. He was born in 1803 in Bavaria and early in his career he was introduced to Beethoven and was a close personal friend to Franz Schubert.  Besides being a composer he was also an organist, teacher and a highly respected orchestral and operatic conductor.

After many different conducting posts he became the music director in Munich and raised the quality of the orchestra to a very high level.  He unselfishly used his power and influence to promote the music of contemporary composers. He especially made sure that he gave Wagner's operas exposure, even though he personally didn't like it. He understood the importance of Wagner and his music and drilled his orchestra to even higher levels so that the premiere of Tristan and Isolde could be held in Munich.

King Ludwig II
Wagner's fanatical patron, King Ludwig II, ascended to the throne of Bavaria in 1864. With typical 'gratitude' that Wagner showed to everyone that helped him, Wagner saw to it that  Lachner was unceremoniously dumped as Munich's music director. After Lachner had worked very hard with the orchestra to make Wagner's opera a success in Munich, he was replaced by Wagner's crony Hans Von Bülow (who later in his career would also pay the price for promoting Wagner's music). Lachner lost all of the positions in Munich that he held under the directorship of the orchestra and did not conduct the premiere of the opera.  He was on extended leave until his contract expired in 1868 and was given a generous retirement sum. He evidently never turned bitter about it all, and remained a respected elder statesman of music until he died in 1890.

He composed operas, chamber music, string quartets, pieces for organ and eight symphonies. The  Symphony No. 8 In G Minor was written in 1851. It is in the traditional 4 movements:

I.  Andante - Allegro Maestoso -  The first movement begins with a long, somewhat brooding introduction. The main theme then slowly unfolds with a subdued heroism that turns more dramatic. This theme segues into a second them that is more serene. Outbursts from the orchestra heighten the drama. After the exposition and recapitulation, a plaintive song by the solo bassoon is interrupted by an exuberant coda.
II. Andante - A flowing movement with a gentle theme that has a sense of continual development.
II. Scherzo - A rapid, jig-like scherzo with a few thumps and bumps for good measure. After the initial statements of the theme, it turns into a subject for fugal treatment.  The trio is lightly played by flutes with string accompaniment.
IV. Finale - Allegro Vivace -  A chattering theme begins the movement, other themes are heard with parts of the 'chattering' punctuating them. The main them is heard near the end along the secondary theme in a kind of sonata form recapitulation. The music ends in a dramatic cadence after a short coda.

The music of Lachner and other so-called minor composers can help us to remember that the great composers did not create their music in a vacuum. They were part of a continuum of their time that included musicians like Lachner who were rock-solid musicians and craftsmen composers. Lachner's music is well-written, and shows inspiration and profundity in places.  He was an important musician of his time, and as such created his own music and helped to create the music of others by teaching and promoting.  I personally enjoy listening to this symphony and look forward to exploring more of his works.

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