Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lachner - Symphonic Suite No. 7 In D Minor

The last major composition by Lachner was the Symphonic Suite No. 7, written in 1881. He was 79 years  old when he wrote it, and had fallen out of step with the current trends of music exemplified by Liszt and Wagner. Lachner especially recognized the value of Wagner's music, as he had given performances of it during his career as a conductor, but his aesthetic was not the same as Wagner's.  Lachner's music was considered old-fashioned by many in the late 19th century, but that doesn't diminish the quality of his music. He was a prolific composer (his opus numbers ran to 190) and remained a popular composer in his time, at least with listeners that weren't hard-core combatants in the 'War Of The Romantics', but shortly after his death in 1890 his music fell by the wayside.

The Suite No. 7 is in 4 movements:
I. Overture - The work opens with an overture in name and spirit, as the movement's themes are of a decidedly operatic nature.  It is a serious and dramatic movement balanced by contrasting lighter themes, but it never really shakes its somewhat tragic feeling. For the observant listener, the dramatic ending is a conscious or unconscious tribute to Lachner's good friend of so many years previous, Franz Schubert, as the orchestra repeats the main theme of the movement with the final statement sounding eerily similar to the triplet accompaniment of one of Schubert's most famous songs, Der Erlkönig.

II. Scherzo - A fine scherzo with a bouncing theme and a contrasting middle section.

III. Intermezzo - Finely written lyrical music, an example of Lachner's craft that was much admired by Schumann.

IV. Chaconne e Fuga - Some of the movements within Lachner's orchestral suites are romantic-era versions of the dances that made up the collections of Baroque era suites. The chaconne of this movement is an example. The origins of the chaconne can be traced back to Spain, but by the Baroque era the dance had become a type of instrumental piece where variations are played over a repeating bass. Lachner follows the short chaconne with a fugue. One of Lachner's music teachers was Simon Sechter, a teacher who lived long and taught many composers besides Lachner. Schubert took a few lessons from him before Schubert died in 1828, and Anton Bruckner was also his student.  Sechter was a task-master with his students and also himself as Sechter wrote around 5,000 fugues in his lifetime. Lachner learned his lessons well, as his skills in counterpoint are heard in this fugue .

 

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